On 16/12/2016 the Commission has published the 'Fitness Check' evaluation of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives (the 'Nature Directives') and concluded that, within the framework of broader EU biodiversity policy, they remain highly relevant and are fit for purpose.
However, full achievement of the objectives of the Nature Directives will depend on substantial improvement in their implementation in close partnership with local authorities and different stakeholders in the Member States to deliver practical results on the ground for nature, people and the economy in the EU.
As part of its Smart Regulation policy, the Commission initiated the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT), a rolling programme to keep the entire stock of EU legislation under review. It affects the whole policy cycle, from initiation to evaluation, and aims to make EU law simpler and less costly.
Fitness checks provide an evidence-based critical analysis of whether EU actions are proportionate to their objectives and delivering as expected. They cover environmental, economic and social aspects, and concern all EU policy areas.
In the field of environment policy, the Commission has completed fitness checks of the EU legislation on freshwater and on waste, and has now begun a fitness check of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives.
As a first step, the Commission developed a mandate for the fitness check of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. It defines the scope and aim of the exercise, setting key questions to be addressed in relation to the fitness check criteria:
In this context the fitness check will examine, among other things:
Key inputs to the fitness check are the mid-term review of the Biodiversity Strategy, published on 2 October 2015, and the Commission’s State of Nature in the EU report, based on the Member States’ assessment of the conservation status for the species and habitat types protected by the two nature directives (Full report and brochure ).
The fitness check will also draw upon evidence gathered in two phases between January and July 2015:
To ensure a geographically balanced and representative sample of all relevant sectors and interest groups, questionnaires were sent to 47 EU-level organisations and representative bodies, and 112 stakeholder organisations at Member State level - one from each of the following categories:
The responses received can be seen here, together with a number of completed questionnaires that were sent by other organisations on their own initiative.
Between April and end June 2015, meetings were held in ten Member States – Estonia, France, Germany, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Slovakia, Sweden and the United Kingdom – to gather and examine evidence in more detail. Meetings focussed in particular on evidence related to the cost and benefits of the two directives, on any excessive or unnecessary administrative burden they may cause and why, and on implementation challenges and successes.
A public Internet consultation was launched to gather opinions on the current EU nature conservation legislation.
A list of Commission studies and published and peer-reviewed key documents relevant for the evaluation of EU Nature Directives has also been drawn up. The relevance to different questions in the mandate of the fitness check is indicated under each of the categories (S = Effectiveness; Y = Efficiency; R = Relevance; C = Coherence; AV = EU added value).