The Magic Mountains region in Portugal was the host of EUROPARC Conference 2017, between the 6th – 10th September. Over 300 delegates from across the globe (37 nationalities with participants coming from countries such as Egypt, Brazil and the United States) gathered during 5 intense days to discuss the “New Visions, New Voices, New Values – For People and Nature in Europe”.
The programme was packed with great speakers, useful networking opportunities, practical workshops, warm summer temperatures, genuine smiling faces and the delicious Portuguese gastronomy… When we look back, even after the hundreds of kms up and down the Magic Mountains (we visited 5 different municiplaities there), the feeling couldn’t be better! We are sure delegates returned home enchanted by the Magic Mountains.
Check the photo album and watch the films
Day 1 – General Assembly and Opening Ceremony
EUROPARC annual General Assembly (GA) opened the Conference Programme in Sao Pedro do Sul. In 2017, members were called to elect new Council Members and EUROPARC President for the period 2017-2020. Ignace Schops was re-elected by unanimity, and many of the previous Council members stood in function. Get to know the new Council of EUROPARC.
Concomitantly with EUROPARC GA, FEDENATUR members gathered in their final General Assembly, where the Network of Periurban Parks was officially dissolved to integrate EUROPARC network. Later, FEDENATUR members joined EUROPARC GA for a warm welcome to EUROPARC family.
During the evening, delegates were surprised by a fashion-show with the Magic Mountains traditional costumes and had the chance to learn about the local flora and fauna with an outdoor photo exhibition by the photographer Joao Cosme.
Day 2 – Plenary Session, Workshops and the Arouca Monastery
Delegates woke up early to reach Arouca in time for the Plenary Session. At their arrival, dozens of the smiling faces were waiting for them: the students dressed nicely to welcome each nationality present at the Conference.
After the speeches of the President of ADRIMAG Margarida Belém, local Mayor and the State-Secretary for Land Planning, delegates were presented with a special video welcome speech from the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. Mr. Guterres recognised the importance of the Conference and highlighted the value of the Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas, especially relevant in the year declared by the United Nations for Sustainable Tourism for Development.
The European Commission – Directorate General Environment had a strong participation in the Plenary Session, with a video message from Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries followed by a presentation about the recently launched EU Action Plan for people, nature and the economy by the Director for Natual Capital Humberto Delgado Rosa.
The invited keynote speakers reflected on the theme of the Conference, showcasing the important role of Mayors and other political actors, and expressing the much needed the new values for Nature Conservation worldwide.
In the afternoon, 15 practical workshops took place – all presentations and outcomes are available here.
After hard work, Delegates were surprised by the “Animation Square”, where organisations and artisans showcased the best gastronomic, cultural and touristic products of the region, followed by a magnificent dinner in the Monastery of Arouca.
3rd Day – Field Trips and the Surprise Event
The 300 delegates left early in the morning to join one of the 16 field trips in and around the Magic Mountains territory. Canyoning, mountain biking, stand up paddle, or climbing, convinced some of the most radical delegates. Some delegates got the chance to try out some of the main touristic attractions in the region, like the Paiva Skywalker or the Ecovia of Sever de Vouga, while others had a deeper immersion in the fauna, flora and agricultural produce in the region with guided tours by local stakeholders (farmers, biologists and tour operators).
After each field trip, delegates gathered in Trebilhadouro, a small village in the Municipality of Vale de Cambra where they had an intense immersion in what life used to be in the rural countryside. A wonderful evening with traditional food, music and dances, theater and loads of fun.
4th Day – Speakers Corner, Marketplace and Gala Dinner
Back to business on the 4th Day of the Conference, Delegates gathered in Sever de Vouga for the Speakers corner and Marketplace. In total, 13 meetings were organised by delegates – who suggested topics for discussion from rewilding to sustainable tourism. The morning was followed by a lively marketplace, with over 50 stands showcasing the best of Europe – tastes, experiences and projects.
5th Day – Special Boat Trip in the Douro
To end the trip to Portugal, delegates had the chance to make one of the most emblematic tours: the Douro valley by boat. There, man sculped an amazing landscape for wine production, now recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development announced by the United Nations for 2017 was also an important background reference for some of the discussions held in the technical workshops and speakers corner. After all, we were welcomed in a Charter Area…! (the Magic Mountains were awarded the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas in 2013)
The EUROPARC Conference 2017 was hosted by ADRIMAG, an organisation actively working for the sustainable development of the Magic Mountains region – right in the heart of Portugal. If you want to follow their work, visit: www.adrimag.com.pt or https://www.facebook.com/MontanhasMagicas. EUROPARC expresses its profound gratitude to ADRIMAG, for their commitment and excellent organisation!