The role of Natura 2000 network is to ensure the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats. Ecologically valuable forest ecosystems are often owned or managed by private forest owners. Natura 2000 benefits communities by enhancing tourism, regional brands and marketing. In private forests, however, its restrictions imposed on land owners cause financial losses in comparison to the usual forest management. The paper compares the level at which the compensation mechanism within the European Rural Development Programmes (RDP) for the period 2007–2013 was implemented in seven European Union countries – Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania and Slovakia. The research focuses on compensation and restrictions within Measure 224 – Natura 2000 Payments – imposed on forest owners in Natura 2000 sites. To obtain the data, a non-reactive research method was applied using a content analysis of the existing documentation. The data sources include European and national statistics and expert knowledge based on common terms of reference. The results show that due to substantial gaps in the implementation of Measure 224 across the EU, there are significant differences in compensation and restrictions for private forest owners in individual countries of the European Union (EU). As opposed to the initial expectations of the measure, the financial support reached less than a third of the forest holdings and less than half of the forest land. The memberstates (MSs) which implemented the measure spent 92% of their original budget on average. Moreover, rural development funds for private forest owners are very limited and the implementation of Measure 224 says nothing about the success of Natura 2000 with regard to biodiversity targets in private forests. One approach to financing Natura 2000 network is a comprehensive use of all existing EU funds, another would be to propose
own Natura 2000 fund.