The Emerald network is an ecological network of Areas of Special Conservation Interest, with the aim of conserving wild flora and fauna and their natural habitats in Europe, which was launched in 1998 by the Council of Europe​ as part of its work under the Convention ​on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) that came into force on 1 June 1982.

The Bern Convention

The Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, also known as the Bern Convention (or Berne Convention), is a binding international legal instrument in the field of nature conservation. It covers the natural heritage in Europe, as well as in some African countries. It is signed by the 46 Member States of the Council of Europe, together with the European Union, Monaco, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Tunisia and Senegal. Algeria, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Vatican City, San Marino and Russia are among non-signatories that have observer status at meetings of the committee. The Convention was open for signature on 19 September 1979 and came into force on 1 June 1982. It is particularly concerned about protecting natural habitats and endangered species, including migratory species.

Adoption of Emerald network sites

All sites proposed to join the Network are thoroughly assessed at biogeographical level for their sufficiency to achieve the ultimate objective of the Network, that is the long term survival of the habitats and species of the Bern Convention requiring specific protection measures. These habitats and species are listed respectively in Resolution No. 4 (1996) and Resolution No. 6 (1998) of the Standing Committee to the Bern Convention. Once the areas proposed are officially adopted as Emerald Network sites, they have to be designated and managed at national level. The national designation and management measures are decided and put in place to contribute to the main objective of the Network, and their efficiency is regularly monitored.

The Emerald network & European Union

The Network is to be set up in each Contracting Party or observer state to the Convention. It thus involves all the European Union Member States, some non-Community States and a number of African States. The European Union, as such, is also a Contracting Party to the Bern Convention. In order to fulfil its obligations arising from the Convention, particularly in respect of habitat protection, it produced the EC Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) in 1992, and subsequently set up the Natura 2000 network​. The Natura 2000 sites are therefore considered as the contribution from the EU Member States to the Emerald Network. Hence, Malta contributes towards the Emerald Network through the designation of Natura 2000 sites.

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