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Enlargement and Nature Law

The two pillars of EU nature legislation, the Birds and Habitats Directives, protect many different types of species and habitats, sometimes providing different types of protection in different countries. As new countries joined Europe, they brought in a wealth of new species and habitats.

In accession negotiations, much focus is placed on nature conservation and acceding countries are encouraged to implement the EU nature directives as early as possible. Nature conservation legislation needs early attention and must be taken into account when implementing other EU policies such as structural, transport and agriculture policy. Acceding countries have to implement the Birds and Habitats Directives from their date of accession onwards.

Here is a summary of how the two directives were amended to reflect the impact of successive enlargements and take into account all the new species and habitats in need of protection.

2013: Croatia

The enlargement of the European Union with Croatia in 2013 has brought the most recent amendments of the EU law for nature protection. Based on the political agreement enshrined in the Treaty of Accession of Croatia, the Council effected the necessary changes by adopting Directive 2013/17/EU of 13 May 2013 adapting certain directives in the field of environment, by reason of the accession of the Republic of Croatia

Unlike in previous enlargements, no new biogeographical regions were added to the existing ones. An Indicative map of biogeographical regions (EU28) had already been adopted by the Habitats Committee in 2011 in light of Croatia's accession. Find out more about the biogeographical regions.

2007: Bulgaria and Romania

This enlargement of the European Union in 2007 also brought amendments of the EU nature law. Based on the political agreement enshrined in the Accession Treaty for the Republic of Bulgaria and Romania, the Council effected the necessary changes by adopting Directive 2006/105/EC of 20 November 2006 adapting Directives 73/239/EEC, 74/557/EEC and 2002/83/EC in the field of environment, by reason of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania

Much like in the 2004 enlargement, most changes concern the annexes of the directives: new typical and endangered species and habitats have been added, and a limited number of geographic exceptions granted

Two new biogeographical regions, the Black Sea and Steppic Regions, were added to the seven already listed in the Habitats Directive. Find out more about the biogeographical regions.

2004: Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia

The enlargement of the European Union with 10 new Member States meant that the EU nature directives had to be applied to a much larger territory than before. The new Member States brought an amazing variety of habitats and wildlife to the EU, with species and habitat types that had nearly vanished from Western Europe.

The changes, proposed by the acceding countries, were technically evaluated by the European Topic Centre on Nature Protection and Biodiversity and discussed between acceding countries, existing Member States and the European Commission between 1999 and 2003. The final product forms part of the environment chapter of the Treaty of Accession to the European Union 2003, which was signed in Athens on 16 April 2003.

Most changes concern the annexes of the directives: new typical and endangered species and habitats were included and a limited number of geographical exceptions granted:

A strictly limited transition period (until 2008) was agreed with Malta for one provision of the Birds Directive (see explanatory note PDF (70KB))

Moreover, a new biogeographical region, the Pannonian region was added to the existing six listed in the Habitats Directive. Find out more about the biogeographical regions.

General information on the enlargement process is available here.

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