Our societies, cultural diversity and economies are reflected in our landscapes, agriculture and natural spaces. The Natura 2000 (N2K) network covers some 18 % of the territory of the EU encompassing the most important natural and scenic areas and providing a long-term guarantee for the protection of our valued and threatened wildlife.
Many of these areas have a significant cultural dimension and their protection and use as a resource for tourism and recreation is an essential element of the European lifestyle. Furthermore, in a continent where little of our landscape is genuinely wilderness, many protected habitats and landscapes of the N2K network are the product of traditional agricultural and land management practices – grazing, hay making, etc. – which are an integral part of rural cultural traditions and heritage. The continuation of these management practices is vital to the long-term conservation of these sites.
Launched in 2010, one European city is to be selected each year as the EGC. Cities designated as EGCs which perform well in terms of the nature and biodiversity indicator may contribute indirectly to improving the knowledge and dissemination of their cultural heritage across Europe.
Cities are given the chance to show what their cultural heritage means to them and how it ties in with sustainable living and environmental development. For example, the restoration and adaptation of existing buildings and urban landscapes is in the long run much more environmentally friendly than demolition and starting anew.