EUROPARC Webinar – celebrating the European Year of Cultural Heritage

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Natural heritage and cultural identity: the role of interpretation

Cultural Identity is rooted in the connection to the land and therefore interpretation of natural and cultural landscapes is something inherent in most protected areas of Europe. Whether this be in the form of panels, exhibition in visitor centres or art installation, helping visitors understand their cultural heritage and connect to nature is fundamental to European parks. 
On the occasion of the official launch of the European Year of Cultural Heritage, the EUROPARC Federation and Interpret Europe announced a partnership focused on the role of natural heritage to explore cultural identity. The organisations will be investigating new ways on how heritage interpretation can encourage citizens to reflect upon this important relationship.
The webinar will be introduced by Carol Ritchie, EUROPARC Executive Director, and will set the scene on the role of interpretation for the promotion of our Natural and Cultural heritage. We will have a first insight given by Interpret Europe, on how to increase the impact of heritage interpretation, and then look at practical interpretive experience from an Alpine national park.

Throughout the year, members from both organisations will have the chance to work and learn more about this topic in four key events across Europe:
• Seminar ‘Natural Heritage as Part of Cultural Identity’ in Siggen, Germany
• Interpret Europe Conference ‘Heritage and Identity’ in Kőszeg, Hungary
• EUROPARC Conference ‘European Parks: Inspired by the Next Generation’ in Aviemore, UK
• Presentation of the key project results at a seminar in Brussels, Belgium

Case Study 1

Maas-Schwalm-Nette Nature Park – left: Theater in the Park, by A.Raedts ; right: Visitor Center, by M. Hectors

Engaging citizens through heritage interpretation?

by Thorsten Ludwig, Interpret Europe, Germany

In 1871, John Muir described interpretation as a way “to get as near to the heart of the world as I can”. Searching for meaning in natural heritage was key, and parks were the cradle of the interpretive approach. But what does this mean in our times? To what extent do the experiences which we encourage and the stories which we reveal in protected areas influence the identity of European citizens? Where are the strong bonds between natural and cultural heritage and can interpretation in parks even help to meet social and political challenges?

Thorsten Ludwig is Managing Director of Interpret Europe, the European Association for Heritage Interpretation. He holds an MSc in Interpretation: Management and Practice and launched Bildungswerk interpretation as the first consultancy for interpretive training and planning in Germany 25 years ago.

Case study 2

(left) Gesäuse National Park, Austria, photo by Stefan Leitner; (right) Martin Hartmann, case study presenter at the Webinar

From theory to practice: Interpretation in Gesäuse National Park

By Martin Hartmann, Gesäuse National Park, Austria
It all started with a 3-hour introductory event. Now, Interpretation is an essential part in trainings, exhibits and panels in the Gesäuse National Park. Martin Hartmann will share how Interpretation is interwoven in the daily work of Gesäuse National Park and the umbrella organisation National Parks Austria.
Martin Hartmann is head of the department for nature and environmental education in the Gesäuse National Park, head of the photography school Gesäuse and president of the VTNÖ (Association for Animal and Nature Photography Austria). As a national park ranger, the forestry scientist and conservation area manager works with Protected Areas since 1996, where he accompanied the development of the Donau Auen National Park. 

How to join?

Webinars are open not only to EUROPARC members – but to everyone with an interest in Protected Areas. Participation is free but registration is necessary.

You can join in from anywhere: you will just need a device with internet connection.

This EUROPARC webinar will be held in English and participants have the chance to join the discussion with the invited speakers, at the final part of the webinar.

Previous Webinars

Visit this page to learn about the previous Webinars and download the presentations and webinar recordings.

EU Strategy on Plastic Waste – Paving the Way towards a Circular Economy

Worldwide 85% of beach litter is plastics and health impacts for citizens range from breathing in toxic particles to swallowing microplastics with their food and drinks.

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On January 16th the European Commission adopted the first Europe-wide strategy on plastics which is part of the transition towards a more circular economy. The aim is to protect the earth, people and economies likewise. Meanwhile, a public consultation is going on until 12 February 2018 on reducing marine litter, particularly from single-use plastics and fishing gear.

Plastics are an omnipresent part of our modern lives – even if sometimes as tiny and invisible as microplastics. We use them to wrap our foods, conserve our drinks, carry blood donations, produce skin-care and store materials.

Plastics, in their various forms, are proven to harm our environment and health, nonetheless, alternatives to using them at a large scale seem to be a long road ahead – with recycling not being considered a silver bullet either. A brief look at statistics clearly shows that transition to real alternative solutions and a more circular use of the material existing is inevitably needed:

Currently, around 25.8 million tonnes of plastic waste are generated in Europe every year – which equals the weight of 3 million grown-up elephants! – while reuse and recycling rates are considerably low (less than 30%).

At EU policy-level there is increasing awareness and acknowledgment of scientific evidence that the excessive use of plastics, which grew a commodity in economy and in our private lives, has significant harmful impacts on the environment and animal as well as on human health.

While health and environmental dimensions are the more obvious ones brought up in the discussions they are not the only ones to be concerned about. The economic sector has a big stake in the debate as well, given the fact that only 5% of the value of plastic packaging material retains in the economy, while the rest is lost after a very short first-use. The annual bill accounts for between 70 and 105 billion Euros. Furthermore, the plastics industry gives direct employment to around 1.5 million people across Europe.

Taking those concerns of international scale in account and having established a single market for goods in the European Union, the issue of plastic waste and pollution is a shared problem that needs a coordinated common action.

How the EU tackles it: Laying foundations to a new plastics economy

In December 2015, the Commission adopted an EU Action Plan for a circular economy. There, it identified plastics as a key priority and committed itself to ‘prepare a strategy addressing the challenges posed by plastics throughout the value chain and taking into account their entire lifecycle’. In 2017, the Commission then confirmed it would focus on plastics production and use and work towards the goal of ensuring that all plastic packaging is recyclable by 2030.

Consequently, on January 16th the European Commission adopted the first Europe-wide strategy on plastics which is part of the transition towards a more circular economy. The aim is to protect the earth, people and economies likewise. Under the new strategy, the European Union will make recycling profitable for business, curb plastic waste, stop littering at sea, drive investment and innovation and spur change across the world.

The ambitious objective is to protect the environment from plastic pollution whilst fostering growth and innovation.

Realising the strategic objectives will require to get on board and empowering the private sector (plastic producing and applying businesses) while at the same time mobilising national and regional authorities, cities and educating civil society about their everyday power in reducing plastic waste and refusing microplastic consumption in foods, fibres and cosmetics.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, said: ” This is a challenge that citizens, industry and governments must tackle together. With the EU Plastics Strategy, we are also driving a new and more circular business model. We need to invest in innovative new technologies that keep our citizens and our environment safe whilst keeping our industry competitive.”

EU Plastics Strategy – Key Points in a Nutshell:

Download the European Strategy for Plastics

 The Commission has adopted a Monitoring Framework, composed of a set of ten key indicators which will measure progress towards the transition to a circular economy at EU and national level.

Under the new Plastics Strategy, the European Union aims to:

  • Make recycling profitable for business
  • Curb plastic waste
  • Stop littering at sea
  • Drive investment and innovation
  • Spur change across the world


  • the design and production of plastics and plastic products which fully respect reuse, repair and recycling needs.
  • developing more sustainable materials and their promotion.
  • curbing plastic pollution and its adverse impact on our lives and the environment.
  • Helping to achieve the priority set by this Commission for an Energy Union with a modern, low-carbon, resource and energy-efficient economy.
  • Providing a tangible contribution to reaching the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.

Public consultation: Your Stake in the Process

Public Consultation: Provide your opinion as input for the preparation of follow-up to the Plastics Strategy in relation to reducing marine litter, particularly from single-use plastics and fishing gear. Everyone is asked to raise their voice: The general public, business associations, companies, researchers and experts, NGOs, international organisations and institutions, fishermen and fisheries organisations.

It’s convenient – you can fill in the online form which is available in all 23 EU languages. Take your chance until 12 February 2018 to contribute to the ongoing public consultation.

Next Steps:

 The European Commission will then present their proposal on single-use plastics later in 2018. (Subject to Better Regulation requirements)

For the full list of measures and their timeline, see the Annex to the Plastics Strategy.

Find here brief Factsheets on the EU Strategy on Plastics.

A EU Initiative for Pollinators – Your Expertise is Needed

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The European Commission is running a Public Consultation on the EU initiative for pollinators (running until 5 April 2018), to collect views on the decline of pollinators. The questionnaire covers the causes and consequences of pollinator declines, potential mitigation measures and the EU dimension to the problem. 

In Europe, pollinators are primarily insects like bees, hoverflies, butterflies, moths, beetles and other fly species. Their rapid decline throughout recent years is alarming, almost 4 out of 5 wildflowers need animal pollination and the majority of crops benefit from it.

Research especially led by European Red List of bees and butterflies increased awareness and knowledge about the reasons and dimension of the threat posed by the decline of pollinators as it leads to the loss of animal pollination.

European Red List of Bees

The IPBES* report on pollinators, pollination and food production, the first global assessment of pollinators unveils the need for a strategic intervention across different sectors.

According to the IPBES report,

direct threats to pollinators include land-use change, intensive agricultural management and pesticide use, environmental pollution, invasive alien species, pathogens and climate change.

There is (yet) no specific policy on pollinators at the EU level. So far the issue is mainstreamed throughout various legislation and policies:

  • environment and health policies, in particular the Birds and Habitats Directives and EU legislation on pesticides
  • Common Agricultural Policy
  • Cohesion policy
  • Research and Innovation policy

Steps towards a EU Pollinator Initiative

European Commission, DG Environment is currently pushing forward to set up a targeted Initiative to tackle the decline of pollinators. The following milestones are part of the process:

  • Improving knowledge on pollinators
  • Tackling the causes of the decline of pollinators
  • Raising awareness and improving collaboration and knowledge sharing

To involve as much expertise and provide as much transparency and options for stakeholder involvement the Commission is running a Public consultation on the EU initiative for pollinators. Citizens, scientists, environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs), farmers, farmers’ associations and farm advisors, beekeepers, rural communities, the agro- and food industry, landscape architects, educational institutions and public authorities are asked to provide their inputs until 5 April 2018.

Have your say and take 20 minutes of your time to fill in the online form in your mother tongue.

The Commission published on 1 December 2017 a Roadmap for the EU Pollinators Initiative.

More background information on the EU Pollinators Initiative can be found at DG Environment website.

* IPBES is the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

(in Spanish) Communications training for Protected Areas

Laptop nature - Goumbik at Pixabay

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EUROPARC Spain organises the 7th edition of the training course “Communication in Protected Areas”. The training course is held in Spanish. Read below all information.

Nueva edición 2018 del Curso de comunicación en espacios protegidos

Hasta el 5 DE FEBRERO se encuentra abierta la inscripción para una nueva edición del CURSO DE COMUNICACIÓN EN ESPACIOS NATURALES PROTEGIDOS, en modalidad semipresencial o bien completamente online, que se desarrollará entre FEBRERO y ABRIL de 2018, con sesiones presenciales (opcionales) programadas el 19 y 20 de marzo en Madrid.

Existe la opción de matrículas reducidas para estudiantes, desempleados y técnicos de administraciones miembros de EUROPARC-España. Es bonificable por la Fundación Tripartita.

Toda la información sobre el mismo se puede consultar aquí.

El formulario de inscripción se puede descargar aquí.