A year after a Commission ‘Action Plan’ stated EU governments should better implement nature protection rules, a new report assessing 18 EU countries shows that all 18 are dragging their feet and failing to protect Europe’s most precious natural areas.
A report published today by BirdLife Europe, WWF, European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and Friends of the Earth Europe shows that while the majority of the Member States assessed (67%) have fully incorporated the Birds and Habitat Directives into national law, they have failed to implement them properly. This means EU protected wildlife and habitats are not receiving the protection they need and have been promised.
11 key criteria were scrutinised, including the availability of adequate funding to manage protected areas (Natura 2000 sites), all the way to implementing their assessments. Using a traffic light scoring system, five of the criteria failed to receive a single green light.
The four NGOs, who are also behind the successful #NatureAlert campaign to save the EUs vital nature laws, stress that the rapid decline of biodiversity across Europe is guaranteed if this lack of engagement persists and call on the European Commission to rise to the moment and show it is serious about this so called “action plan” by making Member States accountable for dragging their feet.
Ariel Brunner, BirdLife Europe’s Senior Head of Policy, said: “We need the European Commission to get serious. It’s time for the Commission to stand up to Member States on what has become a systemic failure to comply with the Birds and Habitats Directives. The Commission has started to do it on air quality. It’s now time to do it for nature.”
Andreas Baumueller, WWF European Policy Office’s Head of Natural Resources said: “The results show that Member States and the European Commission follow a “business as usual” approach. The Commission’s proposal on the next EU budget will be an important test to see if the Juncker Commission is ready to substantially increase investments to protect our natural heritage.”
Sergiy Moroz,EEB Water & Biodiversity Senior Policy Officer said: “Evidence shows that biodiversity loss continues across most of Europe’s territory, with recent studies pointing to dramatic declines in insects and farmland birds. The Nature Directives offer a glimmer of hope as we know that where these vital protections are properly implemented they can reverse such dramatic trends. Our report shows how much progress still needs to be made if we are to prevent irreversible nature losses on a massive scale.”
Adrian Bebb, Friends of the Earth Europe’s Food, agriculture and biodiversity Coordinator, said:
“Protecting nature is also about protecting our own health and well-being. Our nature laws are also our health and well-being laws, enabling Europeans to access amazing nature and the benefits it provides. It is therefore crucial that our nature laws are properly used to contribute to a healthy society now and in the future.”
 The European Commission adopted the “Action Plan for Nature, People & the Economy”, following the findings of the Fitness Check of the Nature Directives showing that the Birds and Habitats Directives are “fit for purpose”, but require better implementation. The plan includes a series of essential actions to ensure Europe’s natural heritage is better managed and protected, but it is up to EU governments to step up to their legal commitments to effectively protect nature across the continent. The NGO report shows that this is not happening.
 “The State of Implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives in the EU” is available here.
The report assesses the implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives in 18 Member States: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.