Nature & Biodiversity.nabil Biodiversity - the immense variety of Life on Earth - is what makes our planet not only habitable but beautiful. We depend on the natural richness of our planet for the food, energy, wood, raw materials, clean air and clean water that make life possible and which drive our economy. But we also look to our natural environment for less tangible things such as aesthetic pleasure, artistic inspiration and recreation. The EU is committed to the protection of biodiversity; indeed there is a political commitment to halt biodiversity loss within the EU by 2010. European society, our immense cultural diversity and our economies are reflected in our landscapes, agriculture and natural spaces. We are stewards of a wonderful natural legacy that we can pass on hopefully in tact to future generations. Over the last 25 years together we have built up a vast network of over 26,000 protected areas covering all the Member States and a total area of around 850.000 km2, representing more than 20% of total EU territory. This vast array of sites, known as the Natura 2000 network - the largest coherent network of protected areas in the world, is a testament to the importance that EU citizens attach to biodiversity. The legal basis for the Natura 2000 network comes from the Birds Directive which dates back to 1979 and the Habitats Directive from 1991. Together these Directives constitute the backbone of the EU's internal policy on biodiversity protection. But protected nature areas do not exist and certainly cannot thrive in isolation from the rest of the land. We need to ensure that our agriculture as well as our regional, energy and transport policies are sustainable and that Europe's natural capital-its biodiversity, is conserved and protected.