EU countries failing to protect nature

It was just one year ago that the Commission called on EU governments to better put EU nature protection rules into action. But 12 months on and new analysis of 18 countries shows that all 18 are lagging behind and failing to protect Europe’s precious nature.

The research, carried out by BirdLife Europe, WWF, European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and Friends of the Earth Europe, shows that wildlife and habitats across the EU that are protected on paper are unprotected in reality.

The study looked at Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The countries have all incorporated EU nature laws into their national laws yet they have failed to implement them properly.

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.

11 key criteria were looked at and given a ‘traffic light’ score that rates them as either ‘doing well’, ‘could do better’, or ‘unsatisfactory’. On five of the criteria there was not a single country with a ‘green light’ score.

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.

Last year the European Commission adopted its so-called ‘Action Plan for Nature, People & the Economy’, following the findings of an evaluation of EU nature laws which showed that the Birds and Habitats Directives are ‘fit for purpose’, but require better implementation.

In 2015 over 500,000 people took part in the #NatureAlert campaign to show their support for upholding the EU’s nature laws.

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.”

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.”