The paper provides an historical overview of conservation activities undertaken in Europe to maintain native livestock breeds, including the motivation and methods applied in conservation programmes and the contribution of various stakeholders. The current state of conservation activities is presented, based on reports provided by the National Coordinators on animal genetic resources (AnGR) during annual Workshops. These Workshops have been convened jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the European Association for Animal Production since 1995, and are conducted within the framework of the FAO Global Strategy for Management of Farm Animal Genetic Resources. Analysis includes policy and legislation development, state and mode of financial support, conservation approaches and public awareness and education initiatives. The paper describes the establishment of the European Regional Focal Point for AnGR, its terms of reference, and ongoing and future activities. Questions regarding a vision of future needs and developments in AnGR are raised in this paper, both from a technical and policy context.