The UN Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty to which almost 200 countries are party. The Convention states that, as far as possible and appropriate, parties shall 'establish a system of protected areas or areas where special measures need to be taken to conserve biological diversity'.
At EU level, several directives of the European Council have been particularly important for the creation of protected areas: the 1979 Birds Directive, the 1992 Habitats Directive, and the 2008 Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
Policy instruments important for the establishment of protected areas
Although the EU 2020 biodiversity strategy serves as the main vehicle for EU action to address biodiversity issues, reaching the 2020 headline target will require the full implementation of all existing EU environment-related legislation, as well as action at national, regional and local level.