EU Nature Directives are ‘Fit for Purpose’, concludes European Commission expert study

Posted on July, 05 2016

The final evaluation concludes the Nature Directives are fit for purpose and clearly demonstrate EU added value.
Brussels, Belgium –– “This evaluation concludes that the Nature Directives are fit for purpose, and clearly demonstrate EU added value” –confirms the expert study that WWF received today by the European Commission as a result of an official access to document request. WWF strongly supports the evidence presented in the independent analysis and urges the Juncker Commission to focus its attention on the implementation of the laws and the threats to Europe’s nature.

The study prepared for the European Commission by a consortium led by the consultancy Milieu, is a thorough evaluation of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, Europe’s most important pieces of nature conservation legislation. The assessment is part of the Better Regulation action launched by the Commission to assess whether the directives are effectively contributing to protecting Europe’s nature (Fitness Check).
“We now have indisputable evidence that the EU Nature Directives are “fit for purpose” in protecting Europe’s natural heritage. President Juncker and his Commission must now urgently put an end to this debate which causes unacceptable delays in the implementation of the laws and address the threats to Europe’s nature.” said Genevieve Pons, Director of WWF European Policy Office.

The Natura 2000 network of protected areas, which was created by the Nature Directives and now covers almost one fifth of Europe’s territory and more than 5% of its seas, is one of the most successful European projects thanks to strong collaboration among all stakeholders (including governments, businesses, and civil society).

“The EU Nature Directives are an excellent example of a more united and sustainable Europe that delivers tangible benefits for both current and future generations. In the current climate of Euro-scepticism, it is especially important for EU leaders to unite around a political agenda with nature and people at its heart. Nature conservation must play a fundamental role in this endeavour to revert to core European values,” she concluded.

The experts discourage any change in the Directives, including the Annexes, as “the balance of evidence suggests that updates at this stage would generate uncertainty and be counter-productive in both nature conservation and economic terms.” The evaluation confirms that the Directives are effective in providing protection of natural sites from developments and other damaging activities and that the benefits of their implementation exceed their costs.

It is also highlighted that the legal protection provided by the EU laws is stronger than most national systems and they provide a ”balanced and workable framework for addressing the varying interests of stakeholders while respecting nature conservation objectives.” The Directives have also brought a new “modern” approach to nature conservation by enabling positive partnerships and different forms of stakeholder participation.

More than 48,000 people from across Europe have so far joined WWFs’ campaign “Turn Up the Volume of Nature” and sent thousands of nature songs and messages to the European Commission and national environment ministers asking for concrete political actions. The European Commission is expected to publish its Report on the Fitness Check and its Communication on EU Nature in autumn.
Notes for the editor:
  • Fitness Check Process: Last year, the EU Fitness Check public consultation mobilised more than half a million people to underline the importance that the EU Nature Directives are fit for purpose and should not be revised - a record number for an EU public consultation.  

    The majority of EU governments, including Germany, Poland, Spain, France, Slovenia, Italy, Croatia, Luxembourg, Romania, Greece, Belgium, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Hungary, as well as the UK’s prime minister David Cameron just last week, have also stressed the importance of maintaining the Nature Directives and focusing on better implementation; the Dutch Presidency had itself also expressed the need for a strong focus on better implementation of the legislation.

    In addition, in February 2016 the European Parliament came out strongly in favour of not revising the Directives, with 86% of its members stressing that full implementation and enforcement of the Nature Directives is a vital prerequisite for ensuring the success of the EU Biodiversity Strategy.

    Recently, the Environment Committee of the European Parliament and some Environment Ministers have reinforced the need for urgent action by the Commission.

    The European Commission’s Communication on the results of the Fitness Check has been postponed to autumn and is expected to be finally voted by the Environment Council in December 2016.

  • Public support for more EU action on Environmental Protection: According to a new survey by Eurostat for the European Parliament, two thirds of EU citizens (67%) support the need for increased EU action on the environment. Terrorism, unemployment, tax fraud, migration, protection of external borders, promotion of democracy and peace and environmental protection top the list of public expectations for more EU action. Learn more
Further information: Stefania Campogianni, Senior Media and Communications Officer, WWF European Policy Office,, +32 499 539736
Evaluation Study concludes that EU Nature Directives are fit for purpose
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