The European Commission debated earlier this week the next steps of the Fitness Check on the Birds and Habitats Directives. While agreeing they should not be opened up, they acknowledged that both Directives are central to Europe's nature conservation policy and as such, their implementation needs to be improved.
This decision is in line with Scottish Land & Estates response to the consultation on them last year. The Commission has been carrying out an extensive evaluation of the Directives since late 2014 in which it has been consulting citizens and stakeholders across all EU Member States. On Wednesday, First Vice-President Timmermans, Vice-President Katainen and Commissioner Vella, presented the key findings of this evaluation to the College and discussed the next steps. The challenges and problems identified primarily relate to the insufficient management and lack of adequate investment in the Natura 2000 network of protected sites, as well as to local deficiencies such as delays, unnecessary burdens for project permits and lack of adequate different assessments in regulating individual species. The evaluation identified the need to improve the implementation of the Directives and their coherence with broader socio-economic objectives, including other EU policy areas such as energy, agriculture and fisheries. On the basis of Wednesday’s Orientation Debate, the Commission will develop an Action Plan to correct the deficiencies encountered in the implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives. The Action Plan will contain a series of concrete measures such as holding regular meetings with mayors and other local authorities to assess implementation challenges and help Member States take the necessary corrective action. Moreover, the Plan will design, in partnership with Member States and relevant stakeholders, appropriate implementation guidelines for regional actors, reducing unnecessary burdens and litigation, and incentivising national and regional investment in biodiversity.