Europe's declining wildlife, and the right of European citizens to enjoy
nature, needs real protection on the ground – not a complex renegotiation of EU
nature conservation laws, argues Friends of the Earth Europe.
After almost two
years of torturous wrangling over whether or not to rewrite the EU's two
keystone nature protection laws (and a year after over half a million of us
called to preserve and reinforce them) the European Commission remains evasive
on what it actually plans to do next.
The laws are
that rare thing - directives from Brussels that are hugely popular with both
politicians and the public. NGOs across Europe, including Friends of the Earth
Europe, have convinced the majority of national governments, more than a dozen
Environment Ministers, and the European Parliament that deregulating nature
protections would be dangerous. Now a weighty expert study for the EU Commission
agrees, the nature laws are "fit for purpose".
nature conservation legislation nevertheless continues to face an ordeal.
Despite clear votes by the European Parliament and EU Environment Ministers,
European Commission President Juncker and Environment Commissioner Vella still
refuse to conclude the 'Fitness Check' of the EU Nature directives (originally
announced for Spring 2016).
The EU Habitats and Birds Directives are fit for purpose
"Evaluation Study to support the Fitness Check of the Birds and Habitats
Directives" was only publicly released in July under pressure from NGOs
and an official Freedom of Information request, after it had been held back
since March. However the 700-page study makes for revealing reading. It
- The EU
nature laws are the backbone of EU nature protection policy
- They are
undisputedly "effective and efficient"
- Where the
legislation is applied and adequately implemented, it serves its purpose,
and benefits of the Natura 2000 network of protected sites and species far
outweighs the costs
balance of the evidence demonstrates that the Directives are fit for
Directives have generated many important benefits for nature."
- There are
problems with implementing and enforcing the laws across Europe
With such an
overwhelming body of evidence, Juncker and Vella are in danger of being stuck
deep in the forest, convinced that the fight is still going on. However, unlike
they are surrounded by proof that they've lost.
What comes next?
No excuse for
delay remains. It is now up to Juncker to quickly follow the facts, the advice
of MEPs and ministers, and the public pressure of over 520,000 citizens – and proclaim that the nature
laws will not be reopened.
Friends of the
Earth Europe, as part of the Europe-wide #NatureAlert campaign, wants to see
concrete actions to strengthen nature protection on the ground in Member
States. This autumn, the EU needs to double down on putting our strong nature
protection laws into practice, in order to meet its 2020 target to halt the
loss of biodiversity (on which it is far off track).
The Commission must:
implement and enforce Europe's nature laws
- Introduce a
pollinators initiative to save Europe's bees and boost biodiversity in the
- Invest more
in nature protection without nature
farming wrecking our countryside
The study also
shows that industrial farming is by far the single biggest driver killing off
Europe's nature. And the European Environment Agency recently revealed that farmland bird populations in Europe have decreased by over 30% since
We all need
nature to thrive. Having nature in our lives is a right, as an essential part
of everyone's health and well-being. Friends of the Earth Europe therefore
calls for a radical
overhaul of our food and farming, and for small scale and sustainable farming
solutions to be put at the heart of European agricultural policy.