Race to save EU species too slow | WWF

Race to save EU species too slow

Posted on 28 June 2001
Brussels, Belgium - Europe risks losing the race to protect its threatened species and habitats unless member states speed up, WWF, the conservation organisation warned today

Today WWF published a unique snapshot of the state of implementation of the European Union's most important nature conservation law - the Habitats Directive. Presenting implementation of the Directive as a 30 kilometre race to save Europe's most threatened species and habitats, WWF shows all member states far from the finishing line envisaged by European law. Even the front runner, Denmark, is just over two thirds of the way through the race (at 21 k out of 30) that started in 1992.*

Denmark is marginally ahead of the Netherlands (20k out of 30) with Austria and the UK not far behind (both at 19 k out of 30). Finland (18k), Italy and Sweden (at 17k) are tucked in behind the front runners. Just past the halfway mark are Belgium and France (16k). Towards the back are Germany, Spain, Portugal (at 13k) and Greece (at 12 k). Trailing far behind is Ireland (at 8k).*

"No one could say the member states were running very fast in the race to protect Europe's threatened species and habitats" said Sandra Jen of WWF's European Policy Office. "It is a race Europe risks losing. All EU countries are well behind time. There are signs that some countries are picking up speed under threats from the European Commission and pressure from environmental organisations but there is still a long way to go."

Every deadline for implementing the Habitats Directive has been broken. The Directive was adopted in 1992, with transposition into national law supposed to be completed in 1994, a full list of sites to be protected under the Directive were due to be submitted by member states in 1995 and finalised at EU level in 1998. In fact, nearly all member states have failed to fully transpose the Directive into national law and few, if any, have completed the site selection process and submitted a complete list to the European Commission.

"The longer it takes to finish the race to implement Europe's most important nature conservation law, the longer habitats and species will be vulnerable to inappropriate construction projects such as the controversial Spanish water transfer (hydrological) plan and other human pressures" said Sandra Jen. "WWF urges the Belgian Presidency to make a big effort to finalise at least the sites to be protected under the Directive."

The Habitats Directive lists some 700 threatened animal and plant species, and 168 threatened habitats to be protected. *�Scores are based on a WWF analysis that examined key questions relating to transposition of the Directive into national law, action to implement the Directive, and financial and other assistance for implementation.

For further information contact:

Julian Scola, Press Officer, WWF European Policy Office. Tel +32 2 743 8806