Europe’s most iconic animal and plant species have been given a glimmer of hope today as EU environment ministers rubber-stamped a new Action Plan  to strengthen EU nature rules which protect them from extinction.
Today also sees 12 new non-native plants and animals added to a list of so-called ‘invasive alien species’ that EU governments must control. Invasive non-native species, for the most part introduced by humans, out-compete native ones and are one of the major causes of damage to Europe’s nature . The EEB welcomes these new additions to the list  but warns that far more species must be added to truly tackle the problem.
The EEB is Europe’s largest network of environmental organisations with 141 members in 33 countries.
In other good news for nature, last week MEPs voted in favour of a modest farm pesticides ban which means farmers across Europe who receive billions of euros of public money a year for improving nature on small parts of their land will no longer be able to spray pesticides on these areas .
The EEB warns that if governments don’t maintain this political momentum and take action to tackle the root causes of nature loss such as industrial agriculture, these promising developments will fail to get to the heart of the problem.
EEB Policy Officer for Biodiversity, Water and Ecosystems, Leonardo Mazza, said:
“Much remains to be done to stave off further devastating loss of Europe’s nature. Politicians must translate their current goodwill into real results on the ground in the months and years to come. More money must be made available to invest in restoring Europe’s natural heritage and the next reform of EU farm policy must reflect the demands of millions of Europeans who want to see wildlife thrive again across Europe’s countryside.”
Notes to Editors:
 The ‘Action plan for nature, people and the economy’, which entails a wider set of measures to achieve a step change in implementing EU’s Nature laws within the next two years, follows a Commission decision last December not to rewrite or weaken the EU’s flagship nature laws – the Birds and Habitats Directives – after two years of uncertainty over their future. The EU nature laws are fundamental to nature protection in Europe, safeguarding more than 1,400 threatened species and one million square kilometres of natural habitats in Europe that fall under their protection. They are also very popular, and have been fiercely defended by scientists, the public, businesses, the European Parliament and national governments. A record half a million people called on the Commission to save and enforce these laws as part of the Europe-wide #NatureAlert campaign. Council Conclusions on EU Action Plan for nature, people and the economy
 Once a species is on the IAS list, Member States are now required to take action within three years to address how these species are introduced and spread. This may involve putting control measures in place to prevent them from being kept, sold, transported, reproduced, or released. Invasive species can cause great damage to native species by competing with them for food, eating them, spreading diseases, causing genetic changes through inter-breeding and disrupting various aspects of the food chain and the physical environment. They can also pose a threat to human health and result in significant costs to the economy through damage to crops and infrastructure. In the EU, the socio-economic cost of IAS is an estimated 12 to 20 billion euros a year.
The 12 new species in the “List of invasive alien species of Union concern” are: Egyptian goose (bird); Alligator weed (plant); Common milkweed (plant); Nuttall’s waterweed (plant); Chilean rhubarb (plant); Giant hogweed (plant); Indian (himalayan) balsam (plant); Japanese stiltgrass (plant); Broadleaf watermilfoil (plant); Racoon dog (mammal); Muskrat (mammal); and Crimson fountaingrass (plant).
While the adoption of this list is a step in the right direction, far more species will have to be added to it before it can effectively tackle this major threat to Europe’s nature. Rather obvious species which can cause the extinction of native plants and animals have not yet been added, such as the American Mink. Plants like the Hottentot Fig, Black Cherry or Lantana which have the potential to dominate landscapes and exclude other life forms are notable for their absence. Problematic marine species like the Lionfish or the Comb Jelly are also missing.
 The long-overdue and common sense ban was adopted despite an attempt from MEPs on the agriculture committee to reject it at all costs. Read more
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Emily Macintosh, Communications Officer, European Environmental Bureau