The European Commission was supposed to present the results of its “fitness check” of the Birds and Habitats Directives (Nature Directives) at a Dutch Presidency conference “Future-proof Nature Policy” on 28-30 June 2016. The document was supposed to serve as a basis for discussions, about the implementation of the Nature Directives in the Member States, at the conference which many governments and NGOs were planning to attend. However the European Commission, 20 days ahead of the conference, has still not published the results of its “fitness check” of these vital laws.
Already in October 2013, the European Commission announced that it would be carrying out a “fitness check” of the Birds and Habitats Directives, in order to assess whether these important laws were still “fit for purpose”. In 2015, in response to concerns that this may result in a weakening of the legislation, stakeholders from across the EU submitted evidence that the laws were fit for purpose. Additionally, over 520,000 EU citizens responded to the Commission’s related public consultation supporting the same.
This was echoed by EU Environment Ministers Council meeting in December 2015, and by a European Parliament vote in February this year. Both bodies identified full implementation of the Nature Directives as key to achieving the targets of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020.
Despite calls from NGOs, SMEs and citizens as well as from the European Parliament and EU Member States to fully implement the Nature Directives as soon as possible, the Commission is still dragging its feet and creating uncertainty for the future of nature conservation in Europe.
Ariel Brunner, Senior Head of Policy at BirdLife Europe stated: “This is shocking news and frankly an embarrassment for the European Commission. The conclusions of the Fitness Check should be crystal clear, and it is incomprehensible that the Commission refuses to publish them and move on to much needed action for biodiversity in Europe.”
Dr Clairie Papazoglou, Executive Director at BirdLife Cyprus added: “The full implementation and enforcement of the laws that protect nature as well as adequate funding are crucial in order to protect nature and biodiversity. What is happening is truly shocking, the protection of nature and biodiversity should be a priority, as we all depend on them.”