Hans von Sonntag | 12.12. 2022
Tereza Lepine, Communication Officer at Terra Cypria, takes a picture of the Eurosite Annual Meeting’s participants on a field trip to rural Cyprus
This year’s Eurosite Annual Meeting took place in Cyprus from 8 – 10 November 2022. And the location turned out to be a great choice. If it was not for Cyprus’ beauty and interesting conservation issues, it was for Eurosite member Terra Cypria’s outstanding conservation work in Cyprus and for being a wonderful host.
Menelaos Stavrinides, Associate Professor at the Cyprus University of Technology, explains the restoration of a vineyard under conservation aspects. Anton Gazenbeek, chair Agriculture, Biodiversity and Climate Working Group (ABC WG), revises his notes
Terra Cypria, one of Cyprus’ top conservation NGOs, is led by Lefkios Sergides, its bustling director. But it would be nothing without its exceptional and highly motivated staff. Nature conservation is a people’s business. Terra Cypria is an excellent example of that, and it shows in their work.
But let’s address the elephant in the room. Why do conservationists travel a long and not-so-sustainable journey to meet in Cyprus, a country at the periphery of Europe?
Well, nature conservation is, by heart, egalitarian. Everyone counts. Noble-looking lynx are as crucial as tiny bugs, wildflowers, and crops, and so are wetlands and grasslands, forests, mountains, and plains, you name it (Cyprus has all of that, except the Lynx). If we don’t value the fringes, the minorities, the little gems and the unspectacular, we won’t succeed in healing our environments in Europe.
With this year’s meeting in Cyprus, Eurosite, its members, and guests state: We care dearly about everyone. We are all equally important. And that, indeed, is the European spirit.
Jan Veenstra retires from the Eurosite’s Economics and Ecosystem Services (EES) working group chair and is much-lauded by Marina Skunca, Eurosite project officer
At Eurosite, we know that without Europe’s private landowners and farmers, there won’t be successful conservation work. And that is why Eurosite teamed up with Europe’s leading private landowners umbrella organisation, ELO, to support private landowners in their efforts to preserve their land for future generations through nature conservation.
LIFE ENPLC is our joint project, bringing together conservation NGOs and private land organisations to determine how effective nature conservation can be pulled off on private lands.
Savvas Zotos, Terra Cypria, explains measures taken to restore a vineyard on private land to participants
Many ENPLC partners were present in Cyprus. So it seemed natural to discuss strategies, options, and tools to make private land conservation happen. In a workshop led by Carolina Halevy (Eurosite) and Matthias Brummer (XCN), the participants discussed how to solve an environmental problem in Cyprus.
The Paralimni Lake, Cyprus. The lake dries out in the summer, creating a specific habitat that needs careful site management
That problem involved a lake that dries out half the year, an endemic grassland snake subspecies, breeding waterfowl, many private landowners, and a range of competing interests, such as a shooting range, locals who fear mosquitos and a motor-cross race circuit.
During the workshop, Elena Stylianopoulou, Chief Environment Officer of the government of Cyprus, honoured the conversation with her presence and allowed some insights into Cyprus’ civic culture. Being more than 2,000 km away from the Northernmost European countries, cultural and political issues can play out quite differently. At the same time, fundamental truths remain the same: You cannot have change without the communities’ consent.
Jim Levitt, director of the International Land Conservation Network, holds a keynote
Agnès Vince, director of Conservatoire du littoral, speaks to the audience
Régis Leymarie, Conservatoire du littoral, explains the challenges wetlands conservation faces in France. On the left, Harm Schoten, director of Eurosite
Lefkios Sergides, Terra Cypria, listens closely to Régis Leymarie’s remarks (third from the left)
Tilmann Disselhoff, president of Eurosite, holds up the friendship agreement between Eurosite and the Greifswald Mire Centre. In the background, Jan Peters, director Succow Foundation
In the three days of the Annual Meeting, further highlights stretched from a keynote by Jim Levitt and Chandni Navalkha, Directors of the International Land Conservation Network, the official launch of a joint policy paper on “Coastal adaptation to climate change” with Conservatoire du littoral, the signature of a friendship agreement between Eurosite and the Greifswald Mire Centre, in-depth exchange of views from the land management community on the new Nature Restoration Regulation, and a dedicated workshop on new concepts for protected area management effectiveness as cooperation between NABU and the Eurosite Management Planning Expert Group, and finally two well-organised field trips to the wetlands and rural outback of Cyprus to a flurry of speed presentations, additional workshops and two field trips.
The famous Eurosite Cocktail. Everyone brings a speciality from their home country to share with others. From top to bottom: Martina Kišelová (CSOP) advertises Czech cookies to the audience; from left to right, Valérie Vandenabeele (APB), Carolina Halevy (Eurosite), and Kyriaki Michael (Terra Cypria) test meticulously specialities; Aiga Grasmane (MIB) from Latvia; Anton Gazenbeek (left, Chair Eurosite ABC working group) talks to Stefan Versweyveld (Natuurpunt)
So where are we at? Judging from the conference’s spirit, we are a thriving sector, more united and tied to the European idea than ever, despite drawbacks like Brexit or the terrible Russian war in Ukraine that overshadows everything. This conflict and its ill side effects force us to be more adamant than ever about our demand that there will be only a future for humanity with healthy nature. That also counts for the European Commission’s Nature Restoration Law proposal, as it isn’t home and dry yet. On the contrary. We have to be on guard. Rumours say that the next Eurosite Annual Meeting will take place in France. I dearly hope that by then, the war in Ukraine will be over, Brexit somehow contained and the Nature Restoration Law a catalyst for our work.