Completion of the Natura 2000 management and protection decrees in compliance with the EU’s habitats directive is a priority, the ministry of agriculture said on Tuesday.

In its statements to mark the European Natura 2000 Network Day, the ministry added that the management of these protected areas ensures multiple benefits for humans and nature alike in the face of the enormous challenges created by the climate crisis.

According to the ministry, the issuing of 27 decrees for Natura 2000 areas has already begun, with strict timetables and the establishment of working groups with the aim to complete the process by the end of 2025.

Ten multi-disciplinary interdepartmental groups have been created. Experts from Greece will also take part to ensure qualitative and quantitative analyses of necessary data for preparation of the decrees, the ministry said.

The Natura 2000 network was created 32 years ago through a pioneering legislative move by the European Commission. It is the largest network of protected areas in the world, ensuring the protection of Europe’s most valuable and threatened species and habitats.

Although comparatively small, Cyprus boasts enormous biodiversity, unique habitats and plants and animal species, many of which are endemic.

According to the ministry, to date, 63 Natura 2000 sites, both terrestrial and marine, have been designated on the island, an area of 10,145 km².

Cyprus is among the EU countries with the largest percentage of areas covered by the network. Seventy-five per cent of state forest land is included, a percentage that comprises 26 areas of special importance.

Highlighting Natura 2000 areas is a unique tool for safeguarding their ecological elements, keeping in mind that balance is required between nature protection and the wellbeing of these areas’ human inhabitants, the ministry said.