SOS Wolf: Von der Leyen hands out early Christmas gifts to her political family

The European Commission has just published the results of an analysis of the available scientific and technical data on the situation of the wolf accompanied by the proposal to downgrade the protection status of the wolf under the Bern Convention.

Wolves are strictly protected under the Bern Convention and the EU Habitats Directive.  

This decision goes against Europe’s commitment to biodiversity protection and restoration – also promised under the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy and Europe’s full endorsement of the Global Biodiversity Framework agreement which celebrated its one-year anniversary only yesterday. 

The recovery of the wolf in Europe is a success story of EU conservation efforts. However, this has caused some conflicts with hunters and farmers, with a number of cases of wolves attacking livestock. 

This is mainly because they have returned after decades to parts of Europe where the knowledge and practices of living with them had been lost. 

Sergiy Moroz, Policy Manager for Biodiversity and Water at the European Environmental Bureau, commented:  

“Today’s proposal from the Commission to lower the protection status of wolves under the international law is an early Christmas present to von der Leyen’s political family as it seeks to position itself as a defender of farming and rural communities ahead of the European elections. The proposal is neither justified by science nor supported by public opinion. The EU can achieve peaceful co-existence with wolves by making full use of funding, best practices and other technical solutions available to protect livestock.”

A recent poll reveals that most rural inhabitants support the protection of wolves and other large carnivores, with 68% stating that they should be strictly protected and 72% agreeing that they have a right to co-exist. 

EU and national guideline documents, good practices, and tools are available to prevent and compensate for economic damage caused by wolves. The EU Guidelines for State Aid in the agricultural sector allow EU Member States to grant full compensation to farmers for damages caused by wolves. This also makes it possible to fully reimburse costs of investments made to prevent such damages, for example installing electric fences or acquiring guard dogs. Rural development funds can also support coexistence, notably via investments and increased agro-environmental area payments for areas where the presence of large predators might prevent delivery of environmentally beneficial grazing practices. These opportunities are underutilised. 

Today’s politically motivated proposal to change the conservation status of wolves is not based on reliable scientific data and undermines existing EU legislation. Moreover, according to the Commission statement it is the first step on the road to further lower the wolves’ protection status under the EU’s nature laws.  

Protecting wolves in Europe is not only a matter of ecological significance, but also a reflection of our commitment to biodiversity conservation and the values of coexistence and tolerance. Wolves are an integral part of Europe’s natural heritage, playing a vital role in maintaining ecosystem balance and biodiversity, and the return of the wolf to Europe is a considerable conservation success that must not be jeopardised. Read our joint letter calling on the EU to uphold wolf protection here.  

It is now for the Member States to decide on this proposal. Once adopted, the proposal will be submitted by the EU to the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention. EU environment ministers have previously called on the Commission to safeguard the wolf’s protected status, pointing out that “it is strict protection, together with an effective system of preventive measures, fair compensation, but also communication with the experts […] that will bring the best solutions”. 


Notes to editors: 

SOS Wolf: Von der Leyen hands out early Christmas gifts to her political family
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