Review of the year 2023

Last year we were able to celebrate a huge success: the Vjosa in Albania has become Europe's first wild river national park! We worked tirelessly with our partners for almost a decade to achieve this decision by the government in Tirana. This success has given us all an incredible boost. Such positive news has done us good and gives us the strength not to despair even in the face of setbacks - of which there were some in 2023. Join us in a look back over the past year.

Airport protest in Albania

People with drums protesting against the airport

Opponents of the airport protesting loudly


The new year got off to a resounding start: at the end of January, numerous environmentalists protested peacefully and imaginatively against the planned Vlora Airport in the Narta Lagoon. If this large-scale project comes to fruition, it will destroy the natural environment, and have a massive impact on the Vjosa estuary. However, despite numerous protests in Albania and repeated calls from other European countries to halt its construction, Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama is sticking to his plans.

In the end, it is all about defending the importance of nature conservation in Albania and in Europe.

Zydjon Vorpsi, Albanian Conservationist Zydjon Vorpsi, PPNEA

The Vjosa is a national park

Patagonia-CEO Ryan Gellert, Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama and the Albanian Environment Minister Mirela Kumbaro holding the Vjosa National Park certificate

Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert with Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama and the Albanian Environment Minister Mirela Kumbaro, holding the Vjosa National Park certificate

© Anika Konsek/EuroNatur

15 March 2023 was a historic day! In a festive ceremony on the banks of the Vjosa, Edi Rama and the Albanian Minister for Environment and Tourism, Mirela Kumbaro, declared the Vjosa a Wild River National Park. This is a huge success for us and our partners, who have been working towards this moment for many years. However, the joy is dimmed by the airport plans discussed above. This project would have a massive impact on the delta of the newly created national park.

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Disillusionment after EU energy tripartite discussions

No sustainability criteria for the use of hydropower, the continued inclusion of wood combustion in renewable energy targets: The results of the last round of the trialogue procedure for the Renewable Energy Directive (RED) were extremely disappointing for us. With our RED4Nature campaign, we and our European partners have done a lot of lobbying in Brussels to promote a genuine, sustainable energy transition in Europe. However, in the wake of the war in Ukraine, we were unable to push through our demands. This was not to be the only environmental policy disappointment at EU level this year...

A bird that brings people together

Stork conservationists and community representatives from almost all over Europe met again for discussions, this time from 22 to 25 May 2023. It was the 20th meeting in the history of the European Stork Village Network and for the first time, the municipality of Tykocin in north-eastern Poland was the host. In our neighbouring country with its healthy stork populations, this town stands out once again because of its many pairs of storks concentrated in a small area and its great commitment to the protection of this charismatic species. The 20th Stork Village Conference was notable for its intensive exchange of ideas and exciting excursions within the locality.

Lawsuit for better protection of the Oder

Fortunately, the environmental drama of summer 2022 was not repeated on the Oder this year. Nevertheless, the pollution levels were once again at a critical level, partly because hardly anything had been done on the Polish side to cut back on the sources of this problem. Moreover, the Brandenburg state government has also been doing far too little to ensure that the Oder will be in a good ecological condition by 2027. This means that the requirements of the European Water Framework Directive will not be met. An alliance of seven environmental organisations, including EuroNatur, has therefore filed a complaint in Potsdam with the Berlin-Brandenburg Higher Administrative Court against the state government's River Oder management plan.

First pack of wolves in Baden-Württemberg

Wolf pup roams through the grass

The wolf pup explores its surroundings.


Back in February, when the presence of a female wolf was confirmed in Baden-Württemberg for the first time in more than 100 years, it became clear that it would not be long before we saw cubs. Sure enough in June, a camera trap image from the municipality of Schluchsee in the Black Forest supplied the proof: the photo showed a she-wolf with lactating mammary glands. A few weeks later, the cubs themselves also showed up in the camera trap. This means that Baden-Württemberg has its first wolf pack for over 150 years. Almost at the same time as this positive news, there were unfortunately also unpleasant developments on the subject of wolves. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen used misleading statements and unreliable data sources to stir up public opinion against the wolf. EuroNatur and other nature conservation organisations have responded with an open letter to the EU Commission.

Swimming for the monk seal

Open water swimmer arouses interest in the monk seal

The swimming cap is on: Dina Levačić is ready.

© Miroslav Lelas/None Of The Above

Internationally successful open water swimmer Dina Levačić used her fame in Croatia to campaign for the protection of endangered monk seals. On 14 June, she swam an eight-kilometre route in the Adriatic that included a potentially suitable birthing den for the seals. "We must do everything we can to protect these habitats for the monk seal," said Levačić in promoting the campaign.

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30 years of Europe's natural treasures

Toad taxi, fighting rabbit, puffin cavalier: the winning photos in this year's "European Treasures of Nature" photo competition were worthy of an anniversary. The annual photo competition was organised by EuroNatur and its partners for the 30th time. Around 3,000 photos were submitted, and you can see the twelve most beautiful and funniest ones here.

Excavators digging for the salt pans

When heavy equipment is used and earth is churned up and shifted, it usually means bad news for the environment. But for once the opposite is the case: in late summer 2023, extensive restoration work was carried out on dams and dykes in the Ulcinj Salina to re-establish the water balance of the salt marsh. This is very good news for the local salt-loving animal and plant species.

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EuroNatur on tour

EuroNatur on a training trip to Slovenia

EuroNatur team in Slowenia

© EuroNatur

Experiencing at first hand what our partners are achieving in the EuroNatur project areas is, alongside team building, one of the main reasons for EuroNatur's study tour. After a long enforced break due to Covid, the trip was finally able to take place again this year. Over the long public holiday weekend at the beginning of October, we travelled from Lake Constance across the Alps to Slovenia, where we gathered a lot of impressions in a short space of time.

Read more about our tour to Slovenia

EuroNatur award for Polish Save the Rivers Coalition

The environmental disaster on the Oder last year showed how quickly a sensitive ecosystem can collapse. However, the planned development of the Oder into a waterway is at least as dangerous for the river that runs along the German-Polish border. The Save the Rivers Coalition Koalicja Ratujmy Rzeki from Poland is campaigning against this and has been awarded the EuroNatur Award 2023. The award is intended to highlight not only the individual activities of the alliance, but above all the willingness to work together and join forces in order to increase the impact for nature conservation.

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Your voice for Romania's paradise forests

Forest in winter

Winter forest in the Carpathians

© Matthias Schickhofer

Disappointing energy policy, propaganda against wolves, undermining of the Nature Restoration Law, rejection of the targeted pesticide regulation: the EU Parliament has had better years than 2023 when it comes to environmental protection. But there was still a small glimmer of hope at the end of the year: On 22 November, the EU Commission published a proposal for a law on forest monitoring and data collection. The law would enable greater transparency by collecting timely, accurate and comparable data. We have launched a petition to increase the pressure on EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius to act on what is happening in Romania. The longer the list of signatures, the more effectively we can show that the people of Europe are not indifferent to the continent's last great old-growth forests.

Please sign the petition

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