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Europe and Central Asia
20 Jun 2016

Environment Ministers speak up for Nature laws

Clockwise from left: Germany's state secretary for the environment and environment ministers from France, Estonia, Greece, Commissioner Vella and the Luxembourg environment minister. © BirdLife
By Zeynep Karasin

On 20 June the EU Environment Council, (ministers with responsibility for the environment from all 28 EU member states) met in Luxembourg. BirdLife Europe was also there to support ministers in reiterating their backing for the Birds and Habitats Directives, the laws that protect Europe’s nature. A number of key Ministers, from Germany, France, Luxembourg, Estonia and Greece joined BirdLife in front of a banner calling for the Nature laws to be officially deemed fit for purpose immediately.

During the meeting itself, the ministers from Luxembourg and Germany expressed their disappointment with the European Commission for not publishing its “fitness check” report on the Directives. They called on the European Commission to publish the report as soon as possible. Commissioner Vella replied that the Nature Directives are key to protect biodiversity and nature and agreed that strengthening implementation in all member states is important. He stated that the Commission is still working on this issue and is planning to present its report on the “fitness check” in autumn.   He reiterated Vice President Timmerman’s emphatic statement last week before the ENVI committee of the European Parliament that  “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”  is their operating and underlying principle. Their own commissioned study is unequivocal that the directives ‘ain’t broke and don’t need fixing’!

The European Commission was scheduled to publish the result of its “fitness check” of the Directives ahead of a Dutch EU Presidency conference. The findings were to have informed the conference discussions, and considerations for better implementation of the laws. However, the Dutch cancelled the conference due to the failure of the Commission to publish any findings.

On June 15 Juncker’s team’s   own commissioned analysis of the “fitness check” was leaked. The report shows that the laws are fit for purpose and should be implemented in full. Later the same day, Commission Vice-President, Frans Timmermans, was grilled by MEPs at the ENVI committee demanding publication of the Commission report and implementation of the Directives. The June 20 action encouraged  environment ministers to echo the MEPs’ demands from last week calling on Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker to end the procrastination and fully implement the laws.

In December 2015 the Environment Council unanimously agreed that these laws are critical to the conservation of nature and called on the European Commission to strengthen their implementation. To date the Commission has not responded, nor to the European Parliament, SMEs, civil society actors or the over 520,000 citizens who have all called for the full implementation of the laws. 


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.