Majority against any development on Natura 2000 sites

The Europe-wide survey on biodiversity, conducted by Eurobarometer, shows that the Maltese are keener on prohibiting development on protected sites than the European average

The Ghadira Nature Reserve is a fully protected bird sanctuary within the EU Natura 2000 network
The Ghadira Nature Reserve is a fully protected bird sanctuary within the EU Natura 2000 network

An absolute majority of 51% of Maltese respondents to a European survey believe that any “economic” development should be prohibited in “protected areas” such as Natura 2000 sites and other designated areas. 

The Europe-wide survey on biodiversity, conducted by Eurobarometer, shows that the Maltese are keener on prohibiting development on protected sites than the European average. In fact 46% of all Europeans express this view.

Moreover while 41% of Europeans think that economic development in protected areas can be acceptable if it is for a major public interest and its damage is fully compensated through mitigation measures, only 32% of Maltese do so.  

The view that no development whatever should be allowed in protected areas was strongest in Italy (62%), Portugal (61%), Greece and Cyprus (59%). This suggests that respondents in Mediterranean countries where tourist development often encroaches on protected areas are wary of any kind of development in these areas.  Only 30% of Poles and 25% of the Dutch express the same view.  

The survey indicates that a large majority of Maltese would like protected areas to remain untouched by development. This contrasts with planning policies approved in the past months, which allow a number of developments, ranging from stores and agri tourism rooms to fireworks factories, in buffer zones to areas of ecological importance, which are also an integral part of the Natura 2000 network. 

But the pro-development lobby is slightly stronger in Malta than in Europe. While only 7% of Europeans think that economic development should always take precedence even on protected sites, the percentage rises to 11% in Malta. 

The survey also shows that 17% of Maltese, compared to just 10%, have heard about and understand the meaning of the Natura 2000 network.  While 73% of Europeans have not heard about it, the percentage falls to 57% in Malta. A quarter of the Maltese have heard about it but do not know what it is.

Awareness of the Natura 2000 network varies widely across Member States. There are only three Member States where a majority have heard of the Natura 2000 network: Bulgaria (75%), Finland (74%) and Slovenia (58%). In sharp contrast, just 4% in the UK and 15% in Denmark and Germany mention having heard of it. 

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