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Europe and Central Asia
10 Feb 2016

Do not open nature laws, improve implementation: European Parliament

Of 644 MEPs, 592 of them backed a report advocating better implementation of the EU's nature laws. Photo: Flickr/European Parliament
By Ariel Brunner

The European Parliament has now formally waded into the debate on the Fitness Check of the Birds and Habitats Directives, asking the Commission to drop its intention to amend the Directives and instead focus on how to better enforce, implement and fund them.

In a landmark plenary vote in Strasbourg, a report led by Belgian MEP Mark Demesmaeker on the EU Biodiversity Strategy was approved by a huge majority. Of the 644 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) present to vote, 592 of them backed the report, with only 52 voting against. The report, among other things, states that the EP:

Opposes a possible revision of the Nature Directives because this would jeopardise the implementation of the biodiversity strategy, bring about a protracted period of legal uncertainty with the risk that it would result in weakened legislative protection and financing, and would be bad for nature, for people, and for business; highlights, in this regard, that the on-going REFIT check of the Nature Directives should focus on the improvement of implementation; Is convinced that any difficulties to achieve the objectives of the Nature Directives and EU biodiversity strategy in general lie not with the legislation but primarily with its incomplete, diverging and inadequate implementation, enforcement and integration into other policy areas […]”

The EP thus sides with the more than 500,000 citizens that responded to the Commission’s public consultation and the 12 national governments that wrote to the Commission on the subject. The same position has been adopted by the Committee of the Regions. One can only hope that in the face of such an overwhelming response, the Commission will stop wasting its time on pondering changes to EU nature legislation and will instead channel its energy towards elaborating concrete proposals on enforcement, implementation, funding and dealing with the disaster that is unravelling in EU agriculture.

The EP is putting a particular focus on the need to ensure proper enforcement of the legislation, including specifically the need to tackle the persecution of birds. It is also pointing out the crucial role played by the Natura 2000 network and highlighting its economic contribution (€200-€300 billion worth of environmental and socio-economic benefits against a management cost of €5.8 billion).

The ball is now in First Vice President Timmermans and Environment Commissioner Vella’s court. They will have to take a decision on the Fitness Check outcome. A first official document from the Commission (in the form of a staff working document) is expected late spring.

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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.