Europe and Central Asia

Fitness Check of the Birds and Habitats Directives

  • Peregrine Falcon © TopDog/Flickr

    In 2014, the European Commission announced a Fitness Check on the Birds and Habitats Directives. A Fitness Check is a formal evaluation to assess whether legislation is fit for purpose. The Commission looks at five different criteria: effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, relevance and EU added value. More information on the process can be found on the website of the European Commission.

    We have worked over many years on the implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives. In our experience, the Directives are solid and visionary pieces of legislation that are fit for purpose and have proven to work. They have all the legal obligations that are needed to achieve nature conservation goals and make a major contribution to sustainable development in the EU.

    There are three main problems in practice that prevent the Directives from achieving their goals:

    • Poor implementation - Many Natura 2000 sites unfortunately only exist on paper and BirdLife Partners frequently have to fight to stop damaging developments. Read more here.
    • Lack of financing - Funds for Natura 2000 are deeply inadequate. It is estimated that only 10-20% of the necessary funds are available. Read more here.
    • Other EU Policies - The Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy have had disastrous impacts on biodiversity. Read more here and here.

    The Commission under President Jean-Claude Juncker has a unique chance to take action for nature. By improving the levels of implementation, investing in nature, improving other sectoral policies and ensuring transparency and stakeholder participation, this Commission can leave a lasting legacy for Europe’s environment.

    Read what we ask them to do for nature here - or read more about our Nature Alert campaign here.

  • EU Nature and Biodiversity section


    The Birds and Habitats Directives

    The Birds and Habitats Directives: The Habitats Directive (together with the Birds Directive) forms the cornerstone of Europe's nature conservation policy. It is built around two pillars: the Natura 2000 Network of protected sites and the strict system of species protection. All in all the Directive protects over 1.000 animals and plant species and over 200 so called "habitat types" (e.g. special types of forests, meadows, wetlands, etc.), which are of European importance.


    Natura 2000 Network

     Natura 2000 is the centerpiece of EU nature policy. It is an EU wide network of Natura 2000 sites, established under the Birds and Habitats Directives. The aim of the network is to ensure the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats. Over 25 000 sites have already been designated, covering more than one million km2.


Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.