The Habitats Directive (together with the Birds Directive) forms the cornerstone of Europe's nature conservation policy. It is built around two pillars: the Natura 2000 network of protected sites and the strict system of species protection. All in all the directive protects over 1.000 animals and plant species and over 200 so called "habitat types" (e.g. special types of forests, meadows, wetlands, etc.), which are of European importance.
The enlargement of the European Union with two new member states (Bulgaria and Romania) in 2007 has brought amendments of the EU nature conservation legislation – the "Birds Directive" (2009/147/EC) and the "Habitats Directive" (92/43/EEC). The exercise of negotiating amendments to the lists of habitat types and species of the above directives originally started simultaneously for all 12 candidate countries, and has now been completed for the two most recent Member States. Unlike the 2004 enlargement, the consolidated annexes have not been included in the Treaty of Accession to the European Union of 2005. Based on the political agreement referred to in the Accession Treaty (Accession BG and RO), the Council adopted a directive effecting the changes : 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
As in the case of the 2004 enlargement, most changes concern the annexes of the directive. In the first place new typical and endangered species and habitats in the new Member States have been added to the annexes, with a limited number of geographic exceptions granted. In addition, a small number of earlier typographical errors were corrected.
For the Habitats Directive, also two new biogeographic regions were added to the existing seven (Continental, Mediterranean, Alpine, Atlantic, Macaronesian, Boreal, Pannonian): the Black Sea and the Steppic Regions. See overall information and biogeographic map of 2007.
The enlargement of the European Union with 10 new member states (Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia) means that EU nature conservation legislation - the "Birds Directive" (2009/147/EC) and the "Habitats Directive" (92/43/EEC) - has to be applied to a much larger territory than before. The amazing richness in nature and wildlife is one of the environmental assets the new member states bring to the EU. These countries still host species and habitat types that have nearly vanished from Western Europe. But not only that: they hold nature values that do not occur at all in the old European Union of the 15. This is why the Birds and the Habitats Directives had to be adapted to cover these unique assets.
Most changes concern the annexes of the directive. In the first place new typical and endangered species and habitats in the new member states have been included into the annexes with a limited number of geographic exceptions granted. Also one new biogeographic region was added to the existing six (Continental, Mediterranean, Alpine, Atlantic, Macaronesian, Boreal): the Pannonian region.
These changes, which were proposed by the Acceding Countries, were technically evaluated by the European Topic Centre on Nature Protection and Biodiversity and discussed between the 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.
Have any transition periods been agreed for the nature directives ?
As regards the legal transposition of the directives and the implementation of Natura 2000 network, no transition periods were agreed. Only one strictly limited transition period (until 2008) for one provision of the Birds Directive (trapping of birds) was agreed with Malta (see Birds Directive).
What are Acceding Countries required to do by accession under the nature directives ?
In the frame of the negotiations much focus was placed on nature conservation and Accession Countries were encouraged to implement the EU nature directives as early as possible. Nature conservation legislation is a horizontal legislation, which needs early attention and must be taken into account when implementing other EU-policies such as structural, transport or agriculture policy. Therefore Acceding Countries will have to implement the Birds and Habitats Directives from the date of accession (1st May 2004) onwards.
The Interpretation Manual of European Union Habitats - EUR28 is a scientific reference document. It is based on the version for EUR15, which was adopted by the Habitats Committee on 4. October 1999 and consolidated with the new and amended habitat types for the 10 accession countries as adopted by the Habitats Committee on 14 March 2002. A small amendment to habitat type 91D0 was adopted by the Habitats Committee in its meeting on 14th October 2003. The Habitats Committee at its meeting on 13 April 2007 adopted additional changes for the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, and for the marine habitats, followed the descriptions given in “Guidelines for the establishment of the Natura 2000 network in the marine environment. Application of the Habitats and Birds Directives” published in May 2007 by the Commission services. Amendments for the accession of Croatia were adopted by the Habitats Committee on 4 October, 2012. The April 2013 version consolidates the changes for Croatia in the text and corrects the references to EUNIS codes for three marine habitat types.
Commission Implementing Decision of 11 July 2011 concerning a site information format for Natura 2000 sites (2011/484/EU)
Official Journal L 198, 30/07/2011 P. 0039 - 0070
This decision has repealed the former decision
Commission Decision of 18 December 1996 concerning a site information format for proposed Natura 2000 sites(97/266/EC)
Official Journal L 107, 24/04/1997 P. 0001 - 0156
The European Topic Centre on Biological Diversity provides technical and scientific support to the European Commission, DG Environment, and the Member States in implementing the Birds Directive (2009/147/EC) and Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC), particularly for the establishment of the Natura 2000 network.