Europe and Central Asia

Nature Alert - FAQ

Eurasian Eagle Owl (c) BelgianChocolate, Flickr


Why is legislation protecting nature under threat?

The laws protecting our most important nature sites and wildlife species (the Birds and Habitats Directives) are under threat as part of a review of regulation by the European Commission, called the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT).  This is worrying because pressure is growing to weaken EU laws that are providing enormous benefits to people and the environment.

Why are the Birds and Habitats Directives important?

The Birds and Habitats Directives (often known as the Nature Directives) are laws that provide the foundation of nature protection across the EU. They ensure that the most important places for nature in Europe are identified and given legal protection (by being made Natura 2000 sites), and they set out requirements to restore and manage these vital wildlife habitats. These laws also offer vital protection to more than 1,400 rare or threatened species of animals and plants by ensuring they are protected in these Natura 2000 sites and in the wider countryside.  

The Nature Directives have been instrumental in the recovery of several iconic native EU species including Bittern, Grey Wolf and Iberian Lynx.  Many of the special places protected by these laws are famous throughout the world – the wetlands of the Doñana National Park in Spain home to flamingos and imperial eagles, the lakes and marshes of the Danube Delta in Romania, home to pelicans and white tailed eagles, and ancient beech forests in Bavaria to name just a few.

The species and places protected by the Nature Directives are each unique and irreplaceable and deserve to be protected for their intrinsic value.  Nature is also good for us: wetlands help protect us from floods, well managed forests help tackle climate change, provide timber and support nature, and regular time spent in nature is important for our health and wellbeing.  Increasingly economists and businesses are also recognising that a healthy and sustainable economy is dependent on our looking after nature. 

Why does the public consultation matter?

The whole process of reviewing the Nature Directives started in January 2015 and will take more than a year.  But it is also important for the public to express their opinion because the European Commission wants help to understand how important nature protection and its laws are to EU citizens.

By taking the online action you will have been helping to demonstrate that people across the EU want nature to be better protected through keeping our nature laws intact and not to be weakened.  The relevance of the Nature Directives to EU citizens and their support for nature is one of the key considerations that the Commission must take into account in deciding whether to maintain or weaken them.

By the time the consultation closed on Sunday 26 July, more than half a million people told the Commission to defend the Nature Directives.

What did the online action involve?

The online action was designed to enable people to express their desire to see nature properly protected in a way that the European Commission have to take notice of.  It allowed you to send a pre-prepared questionnaire response to the Commission without having to spend a lot of time doing it yourself.

Experienced nature experts from the organisations listed below filled in the answers to the key questions asked by the Commission.  This was to make it easy for citizens to send a response defending nature and the Nature Directives.

This was the main, and possibly only, opportunity for the public to have their say in this important debate on the future of Europe’s nature. We hope the online action made it as easy as possible for you and other EU citizens to take part in the consultation process.

Who stands behind the campaign?

The campaign has been organised by Birdlife Europe, the European Environmental BureauFriends of the Earth Europe, and WWF.

If you ticked the box during the online action, we will be glad to keep you informed about the campaign.  Your personal data will be protected and only shared by secure means with the campaign partners. It will not be used for any commercial purpose. For more information on our data protection and security measures please refer to the Legal Notice.




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.