Today European Commissioners took the historic decision to retain the EU’s flagship environment legislation: the Birds and Habitats Directives (the ‘Nature Directives’). Pressure to revise these laws, as their fitness was under review, was met by an 18 month Defend Nature campaign run by environmental NGOs across Europe. Public response was unprecedented, with a record 550,000 people engaging with the European Commission’s consultation on the future of the legislation.
Revered worldwide and perceived as the foundation of nature conservation across Europe, the Nature Directives protect species and create the critical network of European protected wildlife sites – the Natura Network. Where properly implemented these laws are scientifically proven to be effective, delivering demonstrable positive outcomes for nature, as well as significant social and economic benefits.
Paul Walton, of Scottish Environment LINK’s Wildlife Subroup said:
“Wildlife does not recognise borders, and today’s news is of huge significance for species and habitats right across the continent. We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to maintain European standards of environmental protection in Scotland, whatever outcomes emerge following the EU Referendum results. A key test will be maintaining the integrity and international significance of Scotland’s Natura network sites, and delivering favourable conservation status for our threatened species. It is increasingly clear that the natural environment is a key factor in the health and wellbeing of the people”.
The European Commission said that the ‘fitness check’ has recognised that the Nature Directives remain relevant and fit for purpose, but their implementation needs to be improved. To this end, the Commission will develop an Action Plan with local authorities to assess implementation challenges and help Member States take the necessary corrective action
Dr Paul Walton of the LINK Wildlife Group
Phone: 07979 240 857
Daphne Vlastari, LINK Advocacy Officer
Phone: 0757 211 33 79
(1) Record-breaking campaign to save the nature laws
• The European Commission’s review of the Directives arose from President Jean-Claude Juncker’s instruction in 2014 to “carry out an in-depth evaluation of the Birds and Habitats Directives and assess the potential for merging them into a more modern piece of legislation”, as part of the ‘better regulation’ initiative.
• Over 100 NGOs from across the UK countries came together in response, calling for the Directives to be saved and better implemented – not ‘modernised’ http://bit.ly/2haaBcL.
• More than 550,000 citizens took part in the European Commission’s consultation on the Directives in 2015 – the largest response to any Commission consultation to date http://bit.ly/1i4b6Bo.
• In December 2015, the Environment Council recognised the importance of full implementation of these “essential” laws to “maintain legal certainty for all stakeholders”. http://bit.ly/2g2pFnH.
• In February 2016, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to oppose “a possible revision of the Nature Directives” http://bit.ly/1Sq0gFO.
• In March 2016, a Commission external evaluation concluded that the Directives are ‘fit for purpose’ (released through an access to documents request) http://bit.ly/2gClHGG.
(2) Scottish Environment LINK is the forum for Scotland’s voluntary environment community, with over 35 member bodies representing a broad spectrum of environmental interests with the common goal of contributing to a more environmentally sustainable society.
(3) Statement of Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella on outcome of Fitness Check: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/2014-2019/vella/announcements/my-statement-orientation-debate-next-steps-fitness-check-birds-and-habitats-directives_en
LINK is a Scottish Charity (SC000296) and a Scottish Company Limited by guarantee (SC250899). LINK is core funded by Membership Subscriptions and by grants from Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Government and Charitable Trusts.
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