European Geoparks Network
The European Geoparks Network was founded in June 2000 by four bodies that manage areas of natural geological monuments:
- Reserve Geologique de Haute-Provence (France)
- Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest (Greece)
- Geopark Gerolstein / Vulkaneifel (Germany)
- Maestrazgo Cultural Park (Spain)
Τhe aim of the Network is the cooperation, the exchange of practices and experiences, the joint action for the protection of geological heritage of Europe, the utilization and promotion of natural geological monuments and the participation in it of the most important geological monuments of Europe.
The Network also focuses on the scientific cooperation of the entities that manage the geological monuments in order to develop specific forms of tourism, as well as the promotion of the sustainable development of the areas of Geoparks through geotourism.
In April 2001 a formal cooperation agreement was signed between the Network and UNESCO, which participates in the Governing Council and the Advisory Committee, the two decision-making bodies of the Network. The members of the European Geoparks Network hold the distinguishing sign “European Geopark”, which has been sanctioned in all EU countries.
The Network is coordinated by the Coordination Committee, based in Réserve Géologique de Haute – Provence, which works in cooperation with the partner States. The Coordination Committee, consisting of two representatives of each member – administrator, meets regularly so as to examine the progress of the Network.
In the framework of the Network, an Advisory Committee for European Geoparks has been established (Advisory Group), consisting of two experts from each geographic zone that has participated in the founding of the network, and a representative of UNESCO. The two experts should be well-known in the field of sustainable development based on geotourism and the protection and promotion of the geological heritage.
The Coordination Committee of the Network examines candidates’ applications in order to award the “European Geopark” label and is responsible for granting the above title in the candidate region.
The Coordination Committee also agrees to ensure the creation and the most possible enlargement of the European Geoparks Network and its associated members.
According to the founding declaration, a “European Geopark” is defined as an area which has specific features of geological heritage and has developed and implemented a strategy for sustainable local development supported by the EU programs for its promotion.
The main features in a European Geopark are the following:
- It must have clear boundaries and sufficient surface to allow a true sustainable development. It includes a considerable number of places of geological interest, based on the criteria of scientific importance, rarity, aesthetic appeal and educational value. The majority of places of interest in a European Geopark must be representative of the geological heritage, but they can also have archaeological, ecological, historical or cultural interest.
- The places of interest in a European Geopark must be linked together in an organized network and supported by conservation and management measures. In a European Geopark it is not allowed to cause destruction or sell geological objects.
- It must have an organized management body, capable of enforcing policies of protection and promotion of the geological heritage and sustainable development in the region.
- It contributes to the economic development of the region through the promotion of its identity which is linked to the geological heritage and can result in the development of geotourism. In this way it affects the residents’ living conditions and the environment. Its purpose is to enable residents to realize the values of natural and cultural heritage and actively participate in the cultural revitalization of the whole area.
- It develops and promotes experimenting methods for the protection and promotion of geological heritage.
- It supports Environmental Education, the development of scientific research in various sectors of earth sciences, the upgrade of the environment and of sustainable development policies.
It is necessary to operate within the Network of European Geoparks, as this contributes to its cohesion and dynamics. It is also necessary to cooperate with local businesses so as to promote and support the creation of new products that are related to the geological heritage, in a spirit of complementarity with the other members of the Network.