How EU funds can be invested into future benefits
Positive experiences should be promoted in France, where, for example, a very small amount of funding in 2005, led to a successful partnership between an NGO (LPO/BirdLife in France) and local farmers in the Midi-Pyrénées and the pooling of important ecological and agricultural knowledge that was crucial for identifying appropriate management measures for the site. The cooperation also facilitated an access to various different funds. The project cost a total of EUR 53,200 and was 35% co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). By avoiding to spray field margins with herbicide, allowing wild flowers to grow alongside arable crops, not draining bog habitats while grazing these areas during the dry season, the need of buying hay was reduced. In 2005 this delivered an estimated benefit of EUR 150/ha.
The Special Case of the French Outermost Regions
The Outermost Regions (ORs) (Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Réunion, and Saint Martin, soon to be joined by Mayotte ) are, or will be eligible for EU Structural and Cohesion funding, agricultural and fisheries funds. However, France requested that the EU Birds and Habitats Directives (including the Natura 2000 network) would not apply in the French ORs. Several projects financed within these regions (either EU or national funds) have had a negative impact on the environment. The lack of strategic planning and inadequate assessment of the ecological impacts has led to serious ecological impacts of EU funded projects in these ORs. On Reunion Island, the major irrigation project (Basculement des eaux) to take water from the rainy east side to the dry west side as means of intensifying agriculture on the west side of the island, is not only ecologically questionable in itself, but during drilling, it accidently hit an aquifer which consequently had major ecological impacts. The lack of EU level safeguards for biodiversity in the French ORs has meant that the evaluation of development in these regions is not under the same control as on the European continent and the other EU Outermost Regions of the Macronesian region. This is a unique situation within the EU, in which the EU finances infrastructures and development on one hand, without the legal constraints at the European level to identify and preserve key species and habitats on the other hand.
France and the EU have been taking slow steps towards ensuring the conservation and economic potential of the biodiversity in the French ORs. In 2007, they finally became eligible for funding from the LIFE+ biodiversity fund that specifically supports nature conservation projects within the EU. The EU has funded a project, with the cooperation of several partners including LPO/BirdLife in France, SEOR (local NGO) and Parc National de l’Ile de la Réunion, that will run from 2010- 2015 to increase the current knowledge, management and protection of endangered bird species and habitats in Réunion, French Guiana and Martinique.