EU protected areas starved of cash
Natura 2000, the EU's impressive network of protected areas  does not receive enough money from the various EU funding streams, according to a new report published by BirdLife International . The report looked at both the financing needs of keeping the Natura 2000 sites in good status and the availability of EU funds to this effect in six countries ranging from Spain to Finland and The Netherlands to Bulgaria. These countries represent a wide range of conditions and between them cover one-third of the network. Assuming that half of the necessary funds should come from the EU, there is a funding gap of between 45 and 89% of the total funding need in Austria, Finland, The Netherlands and Spain. In Slovakia and Bulgaria, where the potentially available funds from the EU Structural and Rural Development Funds could cover the funding needs, however, it is unlikely that the required amount of money will actually be spent by the governments concerned.
This finding comes when the new TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity)  report for policy makers is made available to the public. This report, prepared by a team of experts led by renowned economist Pavan Sukhdev, highlights the economic sense in maintaining and enhancing ecological systems for the benefits and services they provide to humanity. There is a section devoted to the socio-economic benefits of protected areas. In the light of these findings, it would make sense for the EU to invest more in its world-class protected area system not only to preserve its rich natural heritage but also for economic reasons.
"The main reason for this gap is the lack of political will on part of the EU Member States" —Zoltan Waliczky, RSPB (BirdLife in the UK)
Sadly, this is not the case. Zoltan Waliczky, Head of International Biodiversity Policy of the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), says: "The main reason for this gap is the lack of political will on part of the EU Member States to allocate the sums needed for managing the Natura 2000 networks from their allocation of EU funds. With so many competing interests at stake, nature and sustainability always pulls the short straw." The study indicates that the so-called 'integration option', the inclusion of nature conservation objectives in the various EU funding streams, is not working properly. 'The integration to work properly, major sums of money need to be ring-fenced in each of the EU funds which can only be spent on nature conservation. This was the approach finally taken in the LIFE+ fund and this is the only fund that really works for nature but it is way too small to cover all needs."
The report also highlights the need to collect and make available all relevant information about how much money is actually spent on the EU's protected areas on various activities and from different funds. This would require labelling all spending on Natura sites as such, then the data to be collected and analysed by a central agency. The Member States should report these figures to the Commission who in turn should produce regular estimates of the actual spend. Discussions on the new EU Budget provide an excellent opportunity to secure all the funds needed to manage and restore Nature's gems for the enjoyment and benefit of all.
To read the report click here
For further information, contact:
Herlinde Herpoel, Media and Communication Manager at BirdLife International
Tel: +32 494 542 844, Herlinde.email@example.com
Notes for the editor
 Natura 2000 is a unique ecological network of protected areas in the territory of the European Union. In May 1992, governments of the European Union adopted legislation designed to protect the most seriously threatened habitats and species across Europe. This legislation is called the Habitats Directive and complements the Birds Directive adopted in 1979. These two Directives are the basis of the creation of the Natura 2000 network (see also www.birdlife.org/eu/EU_policy/Birds_Habitats_Directives/natura2000_intro.html)
 BirdLife International is a global alliance of conservation NGOs working in more than 100 countries and territories that, together, are the leading authority on the status of birds, their habitats and the issues and problems affecting them. BirdLife is represented in 42 European countries and in all 27 Member States.
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 More information on the TEEB at www.teebweb.eu