One of the most important issues of concern for the EU is the ongoing degradation and loss of natural and semi-natural habitats and the constant undermining of biodiversity and wildlife populations. As a response to the increasing concern about the declining populations of European wild birds, the European Community, as it was called then, adopted its oldest piece of nature legislation in 1979: the Birds Directive (2009/147/EC)
, formerly 79/409/EEC. According to this Directive, all Member States should designate the most suitable areas for the bird species which are listed under Annex I, and for other regularly occurring migratory species, with an emphasis on waterbirds. The species listed in this Annex are subject to special conservation measures because they are rare, vulnerable, threatened or migratory. These sites are named Special Protection Areas
, the well-known SPAs. In 1992, the EU nature legislation was enriched with the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC)
, which protects other fauna, flora and habitats across the EU.
Together these two Directives form the backbone of nature protection legislation in the EU. Under the Habitats Directive, the concept of the EU-wide network
of nature protection areas called Natura 2000
was introduced. SPAs form part of this network and thus, together with the Special Areas of Conservation
(SACs: areas designated for the protection of specific habitats, flora and non-bird species under the Habitats Directive), they form the centrepiece of EU nature and biodiversity policy.
Having transposed the Directives onto its national law, the Republic of Cyprus designated 41 Sites of Community Importance
(SCIs - sites which are proposed to the Commission by the Member State and once approved, they can be designated as SACs) and 30 SPAs
(some of which are overlapping with SCIs) since it became an EU member in 2004. In total, there are 47 Natura 2000 sites as many sites are both SPAs and SACs.
Additional sites have been designated as SPA-equivalent in the area of the Akrotiri West Sovereign Base Area under the Sovereign Base Areas Administration’s Protection and Management of Nature and Wildlife Ordinance (26/2007) which broadly replicates the Republic of Cyprus’ 153(I)/2003 Law.
BirdLife Cyprus is lobbying for the effective protection of habitats and sites by advocating for the correct implementation of the Appropriate Assessment process
for all proposed plans and projects which could affect Natura 2000 sites, as required under Article 6 of the Habitats Directive and article 16 of the 153(I)/2003 Law. In Cyprus, today several Natura 2000 sites are threatened by plans and projects which are proposed or built,on the basis of poor quality assessments. BirdLife Cyprus advocates the correct use of Appropriate Assessment for correctly assessing the potential impacts of plans and projects to the conservation objectives of Natura 2000 sites and the implementation of and the adoption of decrees that make management plans binding.