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Europe and Central Asia

Major EU countries join fight to protect European Nature Laws

By Finlay Duncan, 27 Oct 2015

Key European nature laws have just been given a massive boost as a number of major EU countries, led by Germany, call for them to be protected.

The Birds and Habitats Directives, also known as the Nature Directives, are currently under review as the European Commission carries out its ‘Fitness Check’ of legislation. The review is happening within the worrying context of President Juncker’s already-declared intentions to “merge and overhaul” the Directives to make them more “business friendly”.

But now nine European countries are telling the Commission to keep the laws as they are and improve their implementation. A letter, led by the German environment minister, has been signed and formally handed over to EU Environment Commissioner, Karmenu Vella, calling for these important nature laws not to be re-opened.

This key alliance, made public today, includes eight other European Governments (France, Spain, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Romania, Croatia and Luxembourg) whose countries together represent around two thirds (63%) of the EU’s total population.

Speaking about this alliance, Ariel Brunner, Senior Head of Policy for BirdLife Europe, said: “This is a loud and clear message that adds up to what is by now a deafening cry: hands off the Birds and Habitats Directives! EU laws to protect nature must be better implemented, not tampered with. What else do Vice President Timmermans and Commissioner Vella need?”

As a result of the Nature Alert campaign being led by BirdLife Europe, WWF, Friends of the Earth and the European Environmental Bureau, more than half a million people, the overwhelming majority of responses, called on the Commission to maintain and fully implement the Directives.

The overwhelming weight of scientific evidence has also demonstrated the effectiveness of these laws and their importance in protecting nature and biodiversity in Europe.

The letter comes at a crucial time for the Nature Directives. Earlier this month, the European Commission’s own mid-term review of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020 highlighted the importance of the laws. Next month, the European Commission will present the first results of the ‘Fitness Check’, and discuss proposals for further action, at an event in Brussels.

The letter from the environment ministers of Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Romania, Croatia and Luxembourg is available to view here.