The Freising Declaration of SER Europe was well received by the European Commission. After 2 years of studying, intense lobbying by the major conservation NGO’s of Europe and with the support of more than 500,000 European citizens and a majority in the European Parliament, the Commission decided on December 7th 2016 not to reopen (‘weaken’) the Nature Directives. They are considered ‘fit for purpose’ and it is recognized that implementation of the Directives need to be improved. The Commission will now work on an action plan for better implementation. This is good news for the future of Ecological Restoration in Europe !
Today the College held an orientation debate on the next steps of the Fitness Check of the Birds and Habitats Directives. These Directives are vital for Europe’s nature conservation policy and as such, their implementation needs to be improved. This was one of the findings of the extensive evaluation the Commission has been carrying out since late 2014 in which it has been consulting citizens and stakeholders across all EU Member States. Today First Vice-President Timmermans, Vice-President Katainen and Commissioner Vella, presented the key findings of this evaluation to the College and discussed the next steps. The challenges and problems identified primarily relate to the insufficient management and lack of adequate investment in the Natura 2000 network of protected sites, as well as to local deficiencies such as delays, unnecessary burdens for project permits and lack of adequate different assessments in regulating individual species. The evaluation identified the need to improve the implementation of the Directives and their coherence with broader socio-economic objectives, including other EU policy areas such as energy, agriculture and fisheries. On the basis of today’s Orientation Debate, the Commission will develop an Action Plan to correct the deficiencies encountered in the implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives. The Action Plan will contain a series of concrete measures such as holding regular meetings with mayors and other local authorities to assess implementation challenges and help Member States take the necessary corrective action. Moreover, the Plan will design, in partnership with Member States and relevant stakeholders, appropriate implementation guidelines for regional actors, reducing unnecessary burdens and litigation, and incentivising national and regional investment in biodiversity. The Committee of the Regions will be closely involved in the follow-up of today’s orientation debate and Commissioner Vella with First Vice-President Timmermans and Vice-President Katainen will inform the College regularly about the progress on addressing the problems and shortcomings identified by the Fitness Check. (For more information: Enrico Brivio– Tel.: +32 229 56172; Iris Petsa – Tel.: +32 229 93321)