Green and glorious: European Capitals of Biodiversity lead the way towards 2020 targets

24 November 2011; Brussels:  Five European municipalities were crowned with the title “European Capital of Biodiversity 2011” in an award ceremony in Brussels today. In an initiative to sustain local biodiversity in Europe, national competitions in France, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia and Spain sought for the national biodiversity forerunners among local authorities. Furthermore the organizing non-governmental organizations facilitated a broad exchange of know-how and best-practices on the national level as well as between the participating countries. 520 municipalities representing 40 million European citizens took part in the competitions in 2010 and 2011. Additionally 1,500 people participated in the training workshops for local biodiversity management.

Janez Potočnik, Commissioner for the Environment, handed over the certificates to the winners in the Liaison Office of the European Region Tyrol-South Tyrol-Trentino. In his speech he pointed out the importance of municipalities for reaching the EU 2020 biodiversity targets: “We will only succeed in stopping the loss of biodiversity in Europe if European society understands the vital importance of biodiversity for wealth and sustainable development. We have to get European villages, towns and cities on board to be key actors for biodiversity management on the local level. Moreover they are the key players in bringing the message of the importance of biodiversity on our doorstep across to their citizens”. Isabelle Durant, vice-president of the European Parliament, emphasized the relevance of a rich urban biodiversity in her video message: “Safeguarding nature in the middle of our cities is a key factor for a lasting quality of life and requires citizens and politicians to work together, especially in the light of the diverse economical challenges cities are facing today.”

From France, the city of Montpellier was honoured for its multiannual action plan 2010-2014 for biodiversity. Furthermore the city with a population of 257,000 inhabitants has joined the Global Partnership on Cities and Biodiversity and is one of the leading city protagonists in this network. The German city of Hannover won for its comprehensive strategic approach to biodiversity protection that specifically includes making their 520,000 citizens enthusiastic about their local nature. In Hungary, the city of Szentes (29,400 inhabitants) won the competition for its significant achievements in water management of the Kurca River and in the preservation of native species of the agricultural landscape. The Slovak winner, the city of Kremnica with a population of 5,400, has is a host to one of the most important international environmental film festivals “Envirofilm” that has been implemented since 1995 and attracts film makers from all over the world. Puebla de Sanabria, municipality of 1,600 inhabitants, came out on top in Spain for its excellent planning regulations that ensure it grows in both a systematic and sustainable way.

Robert Spreter, head of the municipal environmental department of the project coordinator Deutsche Umwelthilfe e.V. (German Environmental Aid), highlighted that the nine winning municipalities of the 2010 and 2011 competitions included municipalities of all sizes from small villages to big cities: “We need to get all kinds of municipalities on board. While smaller municipalities often manage large rural areas with many responsibilities for water bodies, agricultural land and forests, the bigger towns and cities decide how much biodiversity can be experienced by their citizens right where they live and work.”

The award ceremony was the grand finale of the project “European Capitals of Biodiversity”, which is financed by the EU LIFE programme until the end of the year. The event was held in the framework of ICLEI’s series of “Breakfast at Sustainability’s” (B@S) meetings and was hosted by the Liaison Office of the European Region Tyrol-South Tyrol-Trentino in Brussels.

About the project

The project “European Capitals of Biodiversity” is coordinated by Deutsche Umwelthilfe (German Environmental Aid), a German NGO with more than 20 years of experience in environmental competitions for municipalities. The competitions in the five countries are implemented by Natureparif (France), Lake Balaton Development Coordination Agency (Hungary), Fundación Biodiversidad (Spain), the Regional Environmental Center (Slovakia) and Deutsche Umwelthilfe. IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and ICLEI European Secretariat are international partners of the project. More organisations from other European countries are envisioned to join and establish competitions in their respective countries within the next years.

Local authorities are judged in different size classes and thematic categories including municipal green spaces, planning instruments, protection of species and ecosystems, agriculture and forestry,  water management, organisation and cooperation, communication and environmental education. The competitions are accompanied by a series of workshops in each country and the release of printed brochures to present strategies and best-practice examples from the participating municipalities.
For more information please visit our website:


Robert Spreter, Head of dept. „Environmental Protection in Municipalities“, Deutsche Umwelthilfe e.V., Fritz-Reichle-Ring 4, 78315 Radolfzell, Germany, Tel.: +49 (0)7732 9995 -30, Fax: +49 (0)7732 9995 -77, Mobile phone: +49 (0)151 55016959,

For French speaking journalists: Zuzana Hudekova, Project Manager, The Regional Environmental Centre for Central and Eastern Europe – Country Office Slovakia, Vysoka 18, 81106, Bratislava, Slovakia, Tel: +421 2 52632942, Fax: +421 2 52964208, Mobile phone: +421 915 971 867,