The Pan European Ecological Network

The beginning

At the Conference ''Conserving Europe's Natural Heritage: Towards a European Ecological Network'', held in Maastricht on 9-12 November, 1993, 267 participants from 31 European States and 26 international organisations discussed the decline in Europe's biological and landscape diversity, primarily loss and fragmentation of habitats and deterioration of environmental quality, exacerbated by climate change. It further discussed a vision for nature on Europe and the most appropriate action that should be taken in order to halt and reverse the decline. EECONET (the European Ecological Network) or PEEN (the Pan European Ecological Network) had been born.

What is EECONET?

EECONET aims to promote co-operative action across the whole of Europe contributing to the evolving international process of developing a stronger strategic component to nature conservation in Europe. It is a conceptual and operational framework for translating these objectives into action.

Proactive conservation

A primary concern of EECONET is to secure a pro-active approach to preserve what remains of Europe's natural values increasing the biological and landscape diversity of the continent. Concrete measures aimed at enhancing the functions of natural systems are:

  • the identification of core areas to ensure the conservation of habitat types and species,
  • the provision of corridors or stepping stones to enhance the coherence of natural systems,
  • the creation of restoration areas serving to extend the network, providing new habitats and facilitating dispersal and migration,
  • the provision of buffer zones to protect core areas and corridors in the network from adverse external influences, and
  • the enhancement of the environmental quality of the countryside as a whole.

The network

The physical network is incorporating many areas that are already formally protected as well as those that require such protection. It is including extensively used agricultural landscapes and other semi-natural habitats where existing land practices can be maintained in a form compatible with conservation needs. It is being elaborated at a local, national and international level.

The advantages

EECONET offers added value over existing approaches.

  • it focuses on natural and semi-natural ecosystems rather than sites or species,
  • it promotes a common, pan-european framework of objectives, criteria and priorities for guiding conservation action,
  • it encourages coordinated and co-operative action between governments, ngos and other bodies,
  • it facilitates the integration of nature conservation objectives into other policy areas,
  • it generates effective action, and
  • it has offered a concept to capture the imagination of the broader public.