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ENEP’s response to the Birds and Habitats Directives’ refit

As part of its Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT), the European Commission is undertaking a Fitness Check of the EU nature legislation, the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive ('the Nature Directives'), which will involve a comprehensive assessment of whether the current regulatory framework is “fit for purpose”.

Phase 1 (January-April 2015) involved an extensive evidence-gathering exercise in which all Member States and selected key stakeholder groups were consulted. (ENEP's response in this part of the consultation can be seen in the attachment at the end of this article)

In phase 2 (30 April- 24 July 2015) the Commission has launched a 12-week public Internet consultation, which is open to all and is available in 23 official languages of the EU. The questionnaire explores different aspects of the Fitness check and the results thereof will be published in autumn. 

ENEP has created a Thematic Task Force (TTF) on the Fitness Check of EU Nature Legislation.  Its objectives are to:

  1. To establish ENEP as a participant in the key stakeholder group for the consultation process;
  2. To inform ENEP members about the progress, outcomes and implications for environmental professionals of the 2015 Fitness Check into the EC Habitats and Wild Birds Directives.
  3. To encourage all ENEP national member associations to submit consultation responses individually as well as to provide input to the ENEP joint response.

In its evidence the ENEP TTF underlined:-

The added value of EU nature legislation in contributing significantly to harmonised and consistent approaches to identifying sites and protecting species. ENEP TTF believes that without EU nature legislation there would be a complex picture of national mechanisms and disjointed approaches that would have left species in danger and provided potential distortions for the Single Market.

ENEP’s environmental professionals report that there are constant challenges arising from the costs that may be incurred for the surveying of specific European Protected Species due to lack of appreciation amongst developers.

ENEP firmly believes that professional competencies of those implementing, and advising on implementation, of Directives is essential. Qualified professionals and mutually recognised standards would improve standards of interpretation and application. In many countries the implementation of nature conservation legislation remains limited. 

Beyond the concept of designating areas there remains limited competence in many of the new member states on how to draw up management plans, estimate management costs for sites, and link up with area payments under the Common Agricultural Policy in support of Natura 2000.  There is an urgent need to build professional knowledge and competency in these areas.

The issues addressed by the Directives continue to require action at EU level, however better standards for implementation and recognition for the role of trained environmental professionals in different member states are needed.

Recommends an EU approach to Professional Competency frameworks (similar to those operated by a number of our members) that can set out detailed levels of environmental knowledge and skills so that professionals can continually update their qualifications and professional competences. A Europe-wide framework recognised under the mutual recognition of professional qualifications directive. 

European level the directives have a disproportionate impact in different member states. The extent of the application of Natura 2000 is territorially very different among member states, particularly in the new member states.

There is no streamlined procedure for adapting the Directives.  Amendment proposals take time and the political debate is frequently cumbersome delaying the implementation of the new legislation.  Nature legislation might benefit from a more dynamic approach to updating the annexes to legislation through a Best Available Techniques approach.

ENEP believes that the sharing of experience on implementation between professionals from the older member states with professionals involved in implementation of the Directives in the new member States is an effective means of improving future implementation.

ENEP plans to showcase its response from the TTF at a networking side event on Thursday 4th June in Brussels a in the margins of Green Week 2015.

Click here to access our full evidence response

Issue 42