At EU level, nature and biodiversity are protected by several laws. To read or refer to the official law texts (available in all EU languages) or to access the case law, you will find links and references below.
The EU has been committed to the protection of nature since the adoption of the Birds Directive in April 1979. It provides comprehensive protection to all wild bird species naturally occurring in the Union.
The Habitats Directive was adopted in 1992 to help maintain biodiversity. It protects over 1000 animals and plant species and over 200 types of habitat. It also established the EU-wide Natura 2000 network of protected areas.
More recently, new legislation has been developed. In 1999, the EU reinforced the role of zoos in the conservation of biodiversity and, in the wake of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020, committed to protect native biodiversity and ecosystem services against invasive alien species. We also have legislation regulating certain aspects of wildlife trade.
We also provide more information on the impact of the various enlargements on the Birds and Habitats Directives and about the current fitness check of the nature legislation.
Find out why we need it, which birds it protects, how it works and what the law says
Learn which animals, plants and habitats it protects, why and how, what the law says and how it is applied
The EU regulates the role of zoos in the conservation of biodiversity.
Discover what invasive aliens species are, why they pose a problem and how the EU is responding
Find out more about CITES and the fight against illegal wildlife trade, our humane trapping standards and how the trade in seals products is banned across the EU
The Habitats and Birds Directives are being assessed to ensure they are 'fit for purpose', as part of a Commission-wide exercise. Find out more about the current fitness check of the nature law.
Each new country joining the EU has brought new species and habitats with it. The EU nature law has had to be adapted to reflect the impact of enlargement.