Europe and Central Asia

Birdlife Europe & Central Asia Press release

European Commission’s EFA report can’t see the wood for the trees

Yesterday the European Commission published its report on the implementation of the ecological focus area (EFA) obligation under the green direct payment scheme. EFA requirement is the flagship environmental tool of the CAP and unfortunately the Commission is focusing on minor details, whilst the CAP itself is facing major crises of legitimacy.

Birdlife Europe finds the report lacking in several respects. The focus of the report is largely on the percentage of European land covered by the EFA measure. Although somewhat constrained by the legal obligation to consider the potential change from 5-7% of land covered by EFA. The preoccupation with how much land is covered by the requirement is an academic exercise whilst what is actually happening on the land, and its benefit for biodiversity, is key. Further, there is very little substantive assessment of the actual environmental impact of the policy, even though there is considerable academic literature on the impacts of such EFA choices on biodiversity.

The EFA measure is designed to ‘safeguard and improve biodiversity’ on farms, and the report should have measured the success of policy in meeting this end. It must be said that this has not been achieved. As the report states, the vast majority of EFAs are still productive areas containing catch-crops and nitrogen fixing crops. The report even states that the amount of this type of EFA have increased, whilst the number of EFAs with genuinely environmentally positive habitat, such as fallow land, have declined. Recent reports, including those commissioned by Birdlife Europe, have illustrated that these have ‘negligible’ impacts on biodiversity, and can actually become ecological traps if the correct management conditions are not in place, such as preventing the use of pesticides. Since a large majority of EFAs are not delivering for biodiversity, the decision to move from a 5-7% requirement is now a redundant question. The more substantive question of ‘is this policy delivering for biodiversity’ must now be asked. The answer to which must be, no.

Thomas Quinn, Agriculture Policy Officer, Birdlife Europe and Central Asia said: “The time has come to speak candidly and acknowledge that the ‘recent’ greening of the CAP has been a failure. This latest report shows that another year has passed and the prospect of stopping biodiversity declines in Europe look less likely. We can no longer tolerate a policy that relies on the wishful thinking of the ‘potential’ to deliver for biodiversity, whilst species continue to disappear. We need policies that deliver REAL biodiversity conservation and this must of the utmost importance of all EU institutions. That is why we are calling for a major overhaul of the CAP as it is the only way it will meet this most pressing societal challenge.” ENDS


For further information, please contact:

Thomas Quinn

Agriculture Policy Officer, Birdlife Europe and Central Asia

Office phone +32 (0)2 238 50 91


Research commissioned by the EEB and BirdLife ECA shows that while farmers more than met this target on paper, in practice crops which have negligible effects on biodiversity are being grown on 75% of land declared as an EFA. The analysis, carried out by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), looks into the ecological impact of the options available to farmers in 13 EU countries and regions to comply with the EFA requirement. Member States are allowing farmers to count commercial crops with no proven biodiversity benefits towards their commitment to dedicate land to nature. The study also shows that unless the use of pesticides is also limited in these areas, wildlife in them will remain limited. 33 MEPs voiced their support for the Commission’s plan to ban pesticides on EFAs.


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.