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

    #EUandME Stories

    The story of Jakub

    #EUandME Thanks to the EU, Jakub has been able to protect the forests of Slovakia and help reduce the hunting of wolves.

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    Living the dream; I became a dolphin trainer in the Caribbean.

    While at secondary school, Marielle Robien got a work placement in a zoo on the island of Tenerife. To be able to go, she applied for financial support via Erasmus. Thanks to the experience she gained, Marielle is now living her dream, which is working as a dolphin trainer in Punta Cana in the...

    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.

    The story of Jill

    #EUandME Jill is passionate about protecting nature and creating a sustainable Europe. The EU supports her every step of the way.

    I can think clearly when I'm in the forest

    21-year-old Finja has been passionate about the great outdoors since she was a child. To protect what is important to her, she is involved in numerous flora and fauna conservation projects. What concerns her is the fact that nature conservation doesn't end at a country's border – which is where...

    The story of Eleana

    #EUandME Thanks to EU support, Eleana is able to work on protecting marine and coastal life, and sea turtles in particular.

    The story of Veka

    #EUandME Thanks to the EU, Veka has been able to turn his childhood love of hiking in the Finnish countryside into studies of nature conservation and bird directives.

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    Bitten by the wanderlust bug?

    Explore dense tropical jungles and sun-drenched beaches

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