BHD - The Birds and Habitats Directives, Natura 2000

    VOH Vogel- en Habitatrichtlijn

    Birds and Habitats
    Council Directive 79/409/EEC of 2 April 1979 on the conservation of wild birds (BHD-001) relates to the preservation of all species of naturally occurring birds in the wild. It covers the protection, management and control of these species and lays down rules for their exploitation. The Directive applies to birds, their eggs, nests and habitats in the European territory of the Member States to which the Treaty applies.

    Member States have to take measures to maintain the population of bird species at a level corresponding to ecological, scientific and cultural requirements, while taking economic and recreational needs into account. The Birds Directive was created during the 1970s, when birds were perceived as the most "at risk" species because of environmental degradation and hunting during migration. Gradually, however, the need occurred to protect other animals and plants too. That is why Council issued the Habitats Directive in 1992 (BHD-002)). These Directives apply to the protection of both certain species (from disruption and persecution) on the one hand and of natural habitats on the other hand. The protection of habitats aims at the preservation of specified species (for the birds, see Annex I of the Birds Directive; for other species, see Annex II of the Habitats Directive; for the protected habitat types, see Annex I of the Habitats Directive).

    The Birds Directive was deemed necessary because a large number of wild bird species naturally occurring on the European territory of Member States are declining in number, whatsoever very rapidly in some cases. This decline represents a serious threat to the conservation of the natural environment, particularly because the biological balance is in jeopardy. Wild birds species naturally occurring on the European territory of the Member States are mainly migratory species. Such species constitute a common heritage and an effective bird protection is, therefore, typically a cross-border environmental problem entailing common responsibilities.

    In order to protect natural wild birds, measures are deemed necessary to influence the factors determining the population level of birds, being the effect of human activity. The most notable measures aim to prevent the destruction and contamination of birds' dwelling places, prohibition of capture and destruction of birds by man, as well as the trade that is based on these activities.

    Natura 2000
    Special Protection Areas under the Birds and Habitats Directives form the Natura 2000 network (BHD-003), a scheme of internationally important natural areas that should guarantee the survival of certain species and habitats.

    With the achievement of the Natura 2000 network, the European Commission wants to avoid the decline of biodiversity.

    The so-called 'designation decisions' set geographical boundaries and conservation objectives. The designation as a Natura 2000 area could affect the existing uses (activities) by various sectors in or near those protected areas. For the individual Natura 2000 areas, management plans have to be designed, describing what is required to maintain or develop the sustainable conservation of the designated natural values. The management plans also stipulate how existing use (activities) in and near the protected area (including autonomous development) can proceed without having harmful effects on nature. For new use (activities), a license may be required.

    In its Communication on European Seaport Policy (2007), the European Commission announced guidelines for the application of a European environmental and nature legislation for port development. This so-called Estuary Guidance has meanwhile been published in 2011 (see Chapter 5 on "European Ports Policy", (EPP)).

    The LIFE+ programme is the financial instrument for co-financing of innovative environmental and nature conservation projects. The programme has been granted a budget amounting to 2.143 million euros for the period 2007-2013. During the third call for proposals which closed in November 2009, a total of 615 proposals were submitted. On 23 July 2010, the European Commission decided to grant 210 of these projects in the categories of nature and biodiversity, environmental policy and management, information and communications. The total allowance of Life+ amounted to 250 million euros, the total of investment in these projects amounted to 515 million euros.

    Through its Communication on Biodiversity in January 2010, the European Commission declared 2010 as the European Year of Biodiversity. During that year, it was established that the common goals concerning the reduction and reinstatement of the continued decline in biodiversity were not met with existing policies. This was confirmed in the Environment Policy Review of 2009 (BHD-004), which was published on 10 August 2010. With its Communication, which outlined several policy options, the European Commission laid the foundation for the debate on the strategy and policy to be carried out. This initiative was followed by a consultation in the second half of 2010. At the same time, the European Parliament urged to make an effort to stop the decline in biodiversity by 2020.

    On 21 June 2011, Environment Ministers at the Council reached an agreement on a common strategy and goals to tackle the decline of the biodiversity and the impoverishment of ecosystems and, where possible, to make progress by 2020 (BHD-005). The implementation of this strategy and the achievement of the goals also closely relate to the reform of the common agricultural and fisheries policy and the budget reform. The policy will, therefore, take its final shape in a later stage. Port related elements from the projected policy measures are to prevent the access of harmful exotic species (that for example enter EU waters through ballast water) and the identification, improvement, reconsideration or elimination of funding that harms the biodiversity.

    Some relevant documents:
    BHD-005: Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, The Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. Our life insurance, our natural capital: an EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 (European Commission)

    BHD-004: 2009 Environment Policy Review (European Commission)

    BHD-003: Managing Natura 2000-sites. The provisions of Article 6 of the 'Habitats' Directive 92/43/EEC (European Commission)

    BHD-002: Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (European Council) (wild birds directive, consolidated)

    BHD-001: Council Directive of 2 April 1979 on the conservation of wild birds (European Council) (wild birds directive, consolidated)