EUROPARC is a Federation of European Protected Areas, representing management bodies and protected areas authorities from 41 countries in Europe. EUROPARC argues that “nature knows no boundaries” and facilitates international cooperation in all aspects of the management of protected areas in order to improve and preserve our common natural heritage. EUROPARC is recognised worldwide as a professional network of European protected areas, providing a forum for the exchange of professional experience, cooperation in environmental projects and the achievement of common objectives. More specifically, the Federation works to improve the management of protected areas in Europe through international cooperation, exchange of ideas and experiences. As a representative body of Europe’s protected areas, EUROPARC is the collective voice for all nature and landscape areas and seeks to create a stronger, integrated European organisation/network that can support its members and respond to current and future challenges that the nature of Europe is facing. EUROPARC is dedicated to nature conservation practice and sustainable development of European biodiversity, promoting holistic approaches to management. The members who support the network across Europe are distinguished by their shared passion for nature and landscape conservation, while stressing the importance for the environmental, social and economic development of regions, countries and European society in general.
The Management Body of Mt. Aenos National Park has been a member of the EUROPARC Federation since April 2019.For the first time, as an official member of the network, the Management Body participated in the Annual Conference of the European Network of Protected Areas EUROPARC entitled: “Nature in our thoughts – understanding our values”, organized in Latvia, at Kemeri National Park from September 24 to 27, 2019.
At this annual conference of the network, the Management Body was represented by the Chairman of the Board Dr. Georgios Drakatos and Director Dr. Michael Xanthakis. The conference is the main annual meeting of experts and staff dealing with nature management in Europe. Speeches related to nature management, cultural heritage conservation and sustainable development within protected areas were presented. With 360 delegates from 38 countries, the Conference focused mainly on the role of nature in human health and its importance, as well as on other aspects of life, such as politics, business, arts and landscape design. Both Mr. Drakatos and Mr. Xanthakis had the opportunity to discuss with other members of EUROPARC Federation, but also with several delegates, who arrived in Latvia from various parts of Europe, general issues concerning the operation and promotion of national parks. They also exchanged views, experiences, participated in special thematic groups and discussed management best practices with scientists from other European Parks. At the same time, during a presentation exhibition (Marketplace) of the European parks, which took place at the Cultural Center of Jurmala, printed informative material of Mt. Aenos National Park, aiming at highlighting the Park and attracting collaborations with other Parks and European institutions were presented to participants.
Specifically, cards, leaflets and printed material made by Management Body were presented, as well as information material about Kefalonia & Ithaca islands, given by the Region of the Ionian Islands and the Municipality of Argostoli. Mandoles and other traditional sweets, as well as white (Robola) and red wine from Kefalonia were also offered to the visitors. The participants were informed about the ecological and aesthetic value of Mt. Aenos National Park and about the Environmental Information / Awareness Actions of its Management Body (e.g. guided tours, environmental education, hiking trails, mountain biking, etc.). On the third day of the conference, thematic excursions were held to the national parks and protected areas of Latvia, where the Body’s executives had the opportunity to see how the national parks in Latvia manage, promote and offer ecotourism activities. In particular, they visited latvia’s largest National Park, called Gauja National Park. The main objective of the Management Body from its participation in the EUROPARC Conference was the protection of the biodiversity of Kefalonia & Ithaca in combination with sustainable development of protected areas. Particular attention to achieve this goal will be given to the people who live and operate in the wider area of the protected areas of Kefalonia and Ithaca, i.e. to the people of the primary sector, the people of tourism, etc. The Management Body of Aenos National Park seeks cooperation with local authorities, but also with other European Parks. Priority areas for cooperation include: exchange of know-how, ways of developing ecotourism, protection of the environment, reduction of the impacts of climate change, sustainable development of island protected areas.
Figure 4. Cards, leaflets and printed material made by Management Body were presented at the exhibition, as well as information material about Kefalonia & Ithaca islands