WASHINGTON, February 10, 2011 - A EUR20.8 million (USD$28.8 million equivalent) loan to the Republic of Croatia was today approved by the World Bank Board of Directors in Washington, D.C., aimed at helping the EU accession candidate successfully prepare for European Union integration in the nature protection sector.
The European Union Natura 2000 Integration Project will help the various Croatian nature protection stakeholders such as the Ministry of Culture, the State Institute for Nature Protection, National and Nature Parks, county level nature protection institutions, farmers, and landowners to establish an integrated ecological network which will be aligned with the EU Nature Protection Legislation and the Birds and Habitats Directives, aimed at improving the current system of nature protection.
Forty seven percent of Croatian territory and 39 percent of its sea fall under the National Ecological Network (NEN), with the network expanding beyond the 19 core National and Nature Parks. This means that large areas of Croatia have been designated as special protected areas and special areas of conservation, some of them homes to endangered species and habitats. The NEN includes international and national ecologically important areas. Upon Croatia's European Union accession, some of these areas will become part of the European Union Ecological Network – Natura 2000 – following specific EU regulations on nature protection.
Proposed investments in the ecological network will finance small visitor centers, trails, and other infrastructure promoting Natura 2000 objectives. Nature protection institutions will learn how to design and implement nature protection and conservation projects similar to those required by future EU Structural Funds. This will strengthen the capacity of public institutions to absorb EU funds.
Additionally, together with priority technical equipment, fire protection equipment in four coastal Nature and National Parks will be financed.
The project will also support development of data systems to improve collection of information through a biological inventory of species and habitat mapping. This will not only make it easier to monitor and protect endangered species and habitats, but will also enable Croatia to fulfill its reporting obligations to the European Union.
The project’s capacity building activities will provide tools to improve park management. Public information campaigns will be organized to improve public awareness, involvement, and education on the need for protected areas. The local community will be better integrated in the management of the ecological network by promoting agri-environment programs and introducing volunteer programs.
“Croatia has already made big strides in nature protection and preservation of its world renowned parks and its beautiful coast. With the forthcoming EU membership, the requirements on nature protection are getting more demanding and, as former EU candidates have experienced, have been some of the toughest to comply with,” said Nathalie Johnson, World Bank Task Team Leader of the Project.
“We are very pleased that we are able to partner with the Government of Croatia and work together on activities that will not only protect the environment but bring financial benefits to many parks and people living in these protected areas.” said Hongjoo Hahm, World Bank Country Manager for Croatia.
Total financing for this project is EUR43.68 million, of which the Government of the Republic of Croatia will finance EUR2.88 million, with expected co-financing through Parallel EU Structural Funds of up to EUR20 million. The loan of EUR 20.8 million has a maturity of 20 years and a grace period of 5 years included.
Since joining the World Bank in 1993, Croatia has benefited from financial and technical assistance, policy advice, and analytical services provided by the global development institution. To date, the World Bank has supported 45 operations amounting to around US$3 billion, and approved 52 grants with a total value of US$70 million.