Europe and Central Asia
1 Sep 2016

It's autumn, free the Nature Directives!

By Ariel Brunner

It’s “back to school” for the European Commission after the summer break and one of the first issues on the table is the conclusion of the Fitness Check of the Birds and Habitats Directives. The two year long process has seen  near unanimous support for the EU nature legislation from experts, citizens, regions, Member states and the European Parliament. The Commission’s own comprehensive assessment concluded that:

The balance of the evidence shows that the Directives are fit for purpose, and clearly demonstrate EU added value. The Directives have generated many important benefits for nature conservation and sustainable development overall. They provide a balanced and workable framework for addressing the varying interests of stakeholders while respecting nature conservation objectives. Overall the costs of implementation are reasonable, and outweighed by the benefits, although they do impact some stakeholders more than others.”

The process was supposed to be concluded in time for a high level conference organized under the Dutch presidency in June, but unexplained dark maneuvering by the enemies of nature has blocked the process, leading to an embarrassing last moment calling off of the conference. Indeed it has taken an access to documents by our allies in WWF to get the findings out in the open.

In the face of harsh criticism, First Vice President Timmermans gave his word to the European Parliament that he will present in the autumn a comprehensive communication on the future of biodiversity conservation. He promised to take seriously the conclusions of the Fitness Check process. As the days shorten and migratory birds head for Africa, it is now time to deliver. 

If the Commission wants to retain any credibility on its commitment to addressing the biodiversity crisis, it must conclude now that the Birds and Habitats Directives are fit for purpose, and table a credible better implementation package able to address the many failures highlighted by the Fitness check, from sloppy law enforcement to lack of conservation funding to the ongoing disaster that is the EU Common Agriculture Policy.

We are confident that First Vice President Timmermans will keep his word, and are looking forward to working constructively with him and with Commissioner Vella to translate their upcoming biodiversity communication into action on the ground.

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. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.