Croatia’s countryside has been shaped by generations of diverse farming practices. Many of these so called semi-natural habitats: lowland hay meadows, summer mountain pastures and small orchards or olive groves have developed through years of traditional farming activities. This has contributed significantly to the country’s already rich and diverse wildlife.
Currently, around a quarter of
Croatia’s territory is agricultural land, supporting almost 450,000 farms. Family farms constitute the core of the agricultural sector of Croatia, occupying 80% of the total agricultural land and owning 82% of the livestock. The vast majority of these family holdings are mixed farms with crop and animal production, knitting together in a mosaic pattern across the landscape.
All regions in
Croatia are capable of producing very different agricultural goods depending on local conditions and climates.

Habitats of European importance in Croatia

Centuries of different farming practices have generated many semi-natural habitats which are rich in wildlife.  These areas are now highly dependent on their continued use and management for their survival, but they are rapidly disappearing through changing farming practices and land abandonment. That is why they have been identified for conservation under NATURA 2000.


Apart from a few exceptions (intact natural forests and underwater caves), NATURA 2000 sites are and will be managed through productive activity.

Thus, it is in everyone’s interest to find ways to continue managing farmland within NATURA 2000 sites which is both productive and in keeping with the natural environment and its associated wildlife. In every NATURA 2000 site the management must be done in a way that ensures the continued long-term survival of the species and habitat types for which they are designated.  This means, that damaging activities that could significantly disturb the species or deteriorate the habitats for which the site has been selected, must be abandoned. For example: the deliberate capture, killing or collection of the listed wild plants and animals is strictly prohibited.   
In this way NATURA 2000 supports the principle of sustainable development.  Its aim is not to stop economic activities altogether, but rather to set the parameters by which these can take place, whilst safeguarding the rare plants, habitats and animals present.

EU and Croatian agriculture

Yet, whilst there is clearly room for improvement in terms of Croatia’s agricultural production and output, this does not necessarily imply having to intensify all farms to industrial-scale monocultures. The diversity of Croatia’s farming products and the large number of farmers should be seen, not merely as an obstacle to sustainable development, but also as an opportunity. The fact, that the European Market is now open to almost all Croatian products should also act as a big stimulant.  Whilst the big mechanised farms are faced with lower direct payments and heavier environmental restrictions, other areas are rapidly expanding on account of the growing demand for organic, environmentally friendly produce that has a local provenance. 

Taking decisions together

The Natura 2000 Network includes many sites which are designated for grassland, heath or other dynamic, semi-natural habitats and/or for the species relying on them. So it is vital for the Natura 2000 site managers to build up partnerships with farmers and find ways of restoring or continuing the kinds of land use and practices which guarantee a favourable conservation status to the Natura 2000 values, yet without compromising the farmers’ right to a livelihood.

The decision about how to manage a particular NATURA 2000 site is best made on a case-by case basis. The Habitats Directive recommends developing management plans for NATURA 2000 sites precisely to help establish a dialogue between all interested parties and agree on pragmatic management solutions. They record the conservation needs of the habitats and species, analyse the socio-economic context, and interactions between different land-uses and the species and habitats, provide an open forum for debate and help finding practical management solutions that are sustainable and fully integrated into other land uses.
In most cases only minor adjustments will be required to ensure that existing land uses are compatible with the conservation of the species and habitats present, for instance mowing fields a few weeks later to allow ground nesting birds, like the corncrake, to fledge; or avoiding disturbing animals at certain times of the year when they are breeding, feeding or hibernating.
It is essential that those, who live and work in NATURA 2000 sites are closely involved in decisions over their long-term management. It is not just the conservation authorities who are concerned: private landowners, government authorities, industries, local communities, scientists and concerned citizens all have an important role to play in making NATURA 2000 a success.

EU funding

Under the Rural Development Regulations (2007-2013), new measures have been introduced and old ones enforced to support land practices that are beneficial to the environment, such as agri-environment schemes.

Farmers are now entitled to extra financial support for being within a NATURA 2000 site and for maintaining high nature value areas.

Payments from CAP are now linked for keeping farmland in good environmental and agricultural condition




For further information and examples read our brochure “NATURA 2000 and agriculture in Croatia"