Europe and Central Asia

BirdLife Europe & Central Asia Press release - 19 June 2017 - IAS

Alien Covenant - One step closer to stopping invasive alien species (IAS)

Today, EU Member states approved the inclusion of 12 new species[1] to the EU’s “List of Invasive Alien Species of Union Concern”. One of the new species in the list is the raccoon dog, an increasingly popular exotic pet, which is also one of the main vectors of rabies in Europe and a major ecological threat.

Alien species are species that do not naturally occur in the EU and are introduced, either deliberately or accidentally, by humans. Most alien species are benign and cannot survive the new conditions that Europe offers. However, a small minority of alien species, known as invasive alien species, thrive in their new environments, causing huge damage in the process.

Hundreds of invasive alien species are already established in the EU, costing the EU’s economy €12 billion each year through impacts to public health and economic sectors as varied as hydro-electricity and agriculture. Invasive alien species also have devastating impacts on native flora and fauna. Not only do IAS compete with native species for food, they also compete for living spaces, spread disease and, in many cases, eat our native species. Indeed, across the EU, IAS are the third greatest driver of extinction. Unfortunately, climate change will only increase the negative impact of these invaders.

Invasive alien species readily cross national borders and the Single Market’s open borders mean EU Member States cannot tackle the IAS threat on their own. Therefore, the only way to tackle the IAS threat is through coordinated pan-EU action. The EU’s Invasive Alien Species Regulation[2], which came into force in January 2015, is a world-leading piece of legislation which fortunately has the potential to achieve just this. Environmental NGOs such as BirdLife Europe and Central Asia and world-leading scientists, such as those from the NEOBIOTA[3] group have praised the EU’s foresight in passing this Regulation. However, as outlined in the NEOBIOTA Resolution of 2016[3], they have cautioned that the IAS Regulation’s potential can only be realized if the European Commission, Member States and the European Parliament work together to ensure the Regulation’s ‘List of Invasive Alien Species of Union Concern’ includes those invasive alien species which pose the biggest threat to the EU.

Danny Heptinstall, Policy Officer, RSPB (BirdLife in UK) stated: “We are very happy that the European Commission, the European Parliament and EU Member States have realized the serious damage IAS cause to our communities, economy and the nature that underpins them both. Including these 12 new species, especially the raccoon dog, to the EU IAS List is a significant and positive step in the right direction for which the EU is to be applauded. However, we must remember the potential of the IAS regulation can only be fully realized if all of the most dangerous species are included on the IAS list in a timely manner. With this in mind we look forward to the EU Institutions and the Member States maintaining this momentum and adding further species in due course.”

The Member States are expected to vote on further additions to the IAS list in spring 2018.ENDS

For further information, please contact:
Danny Heptinstall, Policy Officer, RSPB (Staff member of BirdLife Partner in the UK but representative of all BirdLife Europe and Central Asia Partners in relation to IAS.)
Mobile: +44 (0) 7711 435 791

[1] The 12 new species in the “List of invasive alien species of Union concern” are:




Alopochen aegyptiacus

egyptian goose


Alternanthera philoxeroides

alligator weed


Asclepias syriaca

common milkweed


Elodea nuttalli

nuttall's waterweed


Gunnera tinctoria

chilean rhubarb


Heracleum mantegazzianum

giant hogweed


Impatiens glandulifera

indian (himalayan) balsam


Microstegium vimineum

japaenes stiltgrass


Myriophyllum heterophyllum

broadleaf watermilfoil


Nyctereutes procyonoides

racoon dog


Ondatra zibethicus



Pennisetum setaceum

crimson fountaingrass



[2] EU Regulation 1143/2014 on Invasive Alien Species


BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is a partnership of 48 national conservation organisations and a leader in bird conservation. Our unique local to global approach enables us to deliver high impact and long term conservation for the benefit of nature and people. BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is one of the six regional secretariats that compose BirdLife International. Based in Brussels, it supports the European and Central Asian Partnership and is present in 47 countries including all EU Member States. With more than 4100 staff in Europe, two million members and tens of thousands of skilled volunteers, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia, together with its national partners, owns or manages more than 6000 nature sites totalling 320,000 hectares.


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.