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EEB stresses poor implementation in its contribution to the Birds and Habitats Directives refit

In its contribution to the open consultation held in light of the refit of the Birds and Habitats directives, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) has stressed that poor implementation and a perceived lack of urgency by Member States should be seen as the primary causes for deficiencies in outcomes.According to the latest results from the Article 17 of the Habitats Directive only 16% of European Habitats and 23% of community interest are in favourable conservation status.[1]

But this should not be interpreted as the directives themselves being ineffective, it argued. The laws have helped progress on halting biodiversity loss and, where properly implemented, they have yielded positive results for example through the designation of Natura 2000 sites, it said. Many species are likely going to take more time to recover and prove the effectiveness of current legislation.

According to the European Environmental Agency (EEA) initial indications from Article 12 (Birds Directive) and 17 (Habitats Directive) reports are that the percentage of habitats and species in Favourable Conservation Status has not changed significantly overall since the first reporting on status while the percentage of habitats and species in Unfavourable Conservation Status has increased, albeit by a percentage that corresponds to the decrease in the percentage of “Unknown” assessments for Habitats and species. i.e. our knowledge of biodiversity in the EU has improved…[2]

The EEB listed delayed transposition, slow implementation, inadequate funding and an unambitious approach to implementation as the main factors which have stood in the way of achieving the Directive’s objectives.

As a major cause for poor implementation the EEB mentioned the lack of management plans to administer the Natura 2000 sites that had to be set up to protect biodiversity. While some countries who opted for the management plan approach had completed management planning for a large number of Natura 2000 sites (eg France, Austria or Sweden) a number of countries who have opted for management plans had developed plans for less than 10% of their Natura 2000 sites.

The EEB argues that there is “no evidence” that the laws themselves “have caused or are causing unnecessary administrative burden”. Any such problems are “linked to specific implementation practices or inadequate planning” and could be avoided, it said.

EEB response

Issue 42