Brussels, 10 June 2014
Environment: Commission launches new platform to help resolve social conflicts over large carnivores
Europe's brown bear, wolf, wolverine, lynx – at least one of these species can now be found in 21 EU Member States. After a lengthy period of decline their numbers are growing once more, but coexistence with man can be problematic. In an effort to solve the social and economic problems that sometimes result from this new expansion, the European Commission has launched a platform where farmers, conservationists, hunters, landowners and scientists can exchange ideas and best practices on sharing the same land with large carnivores.
The EU Platform on Coexistence between People and Large Carnivores will support constructive dialogue between key stakeholder organisations at the European level. Launching the platform, EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "We need to treat our natural neighbours with respect – but we also need to heed the concerns of those whose lives are genuinely affected by their close proximity. My warm congratulations to the organisations that have worked together to set up this important platform, which represents a major step forward in efforts to address the issue of peaceful coexistence."
The European Union is home to five species of large carnivores. All suffered dramatic declines in numbers and distribution as a consequence of human activity, but increasing protection and public awareness about their vital role in healthy ecosystems have caused many populations to stabilize or increase, and to return to areas from which they had been absent for decades or even centuries.
While this recovery is seen by some as a great conservation success, it has not been without its opponents. The issue involves a diversity of stakeholders such as hunters, foresters, livestock producers, reindeer herders, landowners, rural communities, conservation organizations and the wider public. These groups are influenced by and perceive large carnivores in different ways, and in some cases these differences can be a source of conflict. The platform will facilitate exchanges of knowledge and promote ways and means to minimize, and wherever possible, find equitable solutions to these conflicts.
The platform launched today follows a number of efforts to understand the conflicts between stakeholders over large carnivores, the results of which were set out in workshops conclusions and in a report.
The Platform will hold its first working session immediately following the official launch today, on 10 June. It will adopt terms of reference and a work plan. The Platform will hold one annual meeting and organize additional workshops on selected topics. It will be supported by a web-based resource centre that will serve as the main tool to disseminate information on the activities of the platform, identify good practices in the form of documents or a manual, act as a gateway to the portals of the member organisations, and host media resources such as press kits for journalists.
Although the overall picture for biodiversity in the EU is far from good – up to 25 percent of species are now at risk of extinction, largely due to the disappearance of their habitats - some species groups are doing relatively well in some regions. Large carnivores (brown bear Ursus arctos, Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx, wolf Canis lupus and wolverine Gulo gulo) are among the species that are generally holding their own, and even expanding, across large parts of their former ranges in Europe, often as a result of natural processes. The Iberian lynx Lynx pardinus, however, remains seriously threatened.
Two directives, the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive, together form the cornerstone of the EU's nature conservation policy, the Natura 2000 network of protected sites and the strict system of species protection. The Habitats Directive protects over 1000 animals and plant species and over 200 habitat types such as special types of forests, meadows and wetlands of European importance.
The eight stakeholder associations signing the platform agreement are: CIC – The International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation; COPA-COGECA – European Farmers and European Agri-cooperatives; ELO - European Landowners’ Organization; EUROPARC Federation; FACE – The European Federation of Associations for Hunting & Conservation; Joint representative of Finnish and Swedish reindeer herders; IUCN – The International Union for Conservation of Nature, European Union Representative Office; and WWF – World Wide Fund for Nature, European Policy Office.
For more information:
Illustrations can be downloaded at
Visit the large carnivore website of DG Environment at http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/conservation/species/carnivores/index_en.htm
The signing ceremony and moderated panel discussion is streamed (https://new.livestream.com/corlive1/events/2977474/embed) on the internet (also see http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/conservation/species/carnivores/index_en.htm)