Protected nature

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Protected nature
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Enjoy clean water, cleaner air and protected nature


EU laws are cracking down on air polluters to save Europeans’ lives and improve their health. In only two decades, sulphur dioxide emissions, the main cause of acid rain, have been cut by almost 80%.


Like most Europeans, I don’t have a drinking problem when it comes to fresh water. The water we drink must meet EU standards, and be free from any microorganisms, parasites and harmful substances.


We’re not the only residents that call Europe home. From the Mediterranean Monk Seal to the Red Kite, thousands of creatures live here too – and many species need our protection. Covering 18% of the EU’s land area and almost 6% of its rivers, seas and oceans, Natura 2000 is the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world. It offers a haven to Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats.


Lake, river or sea: I can swim anywhere in Europe, safe in the knowledge that the EU’s Bathing Water Directive has made Europe’s bathing spots much safer and cleaner. Today, over 96% of sites meet the minimum required standards, so all that’s left is for me to grab my paddleboard and relax wherever I want.
I am always careful to throw my litter away or take it home to help stop ugly marine litter ruining the oceans. There’s already 150 million tonnes of plastic waste in the ocean. I definitely don’t want to add to it! 

How it works

The EU protects my environment by law and gives me the chance to contribute to that effort. It guarantees that my water is safe to drink, that my favourite place to swim, paddle or kayak is clean, and it works hard to ensure the air I breathe is fresh. Through the Natura 2000 programme, the EU maintains around 26,000 protected natural areas, covering nearly a fifth of the EU – that’s an area larger than Germany, Poland and the Czechia combined. 

    Did you know?



    The number of European wild bird species in danger of extinction that are protected by the EU.



    of bathing sites in the EU have excellent water quality, an increase of over 7% since 2011.



    The number of rare and threatened plants and animals protected by EU legislation.

    Turning the tide


    Thanks to policies such as MedFish4Ever, a 10-year pledge to save Mediterranean fish stocks, the EU is a driving force in the fight against overfishing, prompting the recovery of species such as Bluefin tuna.

    Director's Video

    /euandme/file/oona-euandme-short-film-directed-zaida-bergroth-0_enOona: an #EUandME short film directed by Zaida Bergroth

    Oona, directed by Zaida Bergroth

    After becoming lost and stranded in a menacing forest, a young girl must rely on the assistance of an unlikely friend to find her way home.

    /euandme/file/oona-euandme-short-film-directed-zaida-bergroth-0_enOona: an #EUandME short film directed by Zaida Bergroth

    /euandme/file/oona-official-euandme-trailer-0_enOona: the official #EUandME trailer

    /euandme/file/behind-scenes-oona-euandme-short-film-0_enBehind the scenes of Oona: an #EUandMe short film

    Digital stories

    EU Helps Educate Children on the Environment

    Niall Hatch, Development Officer at BirdWatch Ireland, the Irish BirdLife Partner, is an enthusiastic advocate for nature. He is a birdwatcher who travels all over Ireland, giving lectures and sharing his passion with children and young people. Niall is the go-to spokesperson for all things birds in Ireland. He regularly appears on TV and contributes to radio and print media. Moreover, Niall is the Irish National Coordinator for Spring Alive – an international project encouraging children’s interest in nature and the conservation of migratory birds. Spring Alive is funded by the European Commission.

    “Far too many people today, of all ages and from all backgrounds, suffer from a lack of connection to nature. I don't use the word ‘suffer’ lightly. It is an affliction and it is tragic how few people seem to realise that the state of our environment and ecosystems directly relates to their own personal health and well-being.”

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    The story of Seamus

    #EUandME Thanks to the EU, Seamus is able to travel across the European coastline to participate in bodyboarding competitions as part of the Irish surfing team.

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