The EU offers a framework to protect biodiversity, wildlife and nature that is unparalleled anywhere in the world. Now, following a ‘fitness check’ of its Birds and Habitats Directives, a new Action Plan aims to ensure these fully deliver on protecting nature, improving the quality of life for Europeans and bringing economic benefits. 

The new Action Plan puts forward 15 actions to boost application of EU nature rules on the ground so that it will deliver its full potential for nature, people and the economy.

The Action Plan identifies ambitious implementation improvements of the Nature Directives.

Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs

The plan follows up on the ‘fitness check’ carried out to establish whether EU nature legislation was doing its job. “We conducted a thorough review of these Directives and concluded they are fit for purpose,” explained the EU’s First Vice-President for Better Regulation, Frans Timmermans. “Now we are making sure they achieve their full potential in protecting and preserving Europe's rich biodiversity.”

The Action Plan identifies four priority areas: improving guidance and knowledge and the connection between nature protection and socio-economic activities; and building political ownership by working with national, regional and local authorities, landowners and young people. It also focuses on strengthening investment through a 10 % increase in the EU LIFE programme, as well as incentives for private investment. Finally, raising awareness among stakeholders and Europeans about the benefits healthy nature provides is the fourth priority.  

The Commission has already fulfilled one of the pledges when EU institutions jointly declared 21 May as the annual European Natura 2000 Day.

“The Action Plan identifies ambitious implementation improvements of the Nature Directives,” explained Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. “With the European Natura 2000 Day, we pay tribute to this unique network and its value for people and our economy."

Hundreds of local events and networking activities have already been held across Europe to mark Natura 2000 Day. The Commission also launched the next round of European Natura 2000 Awards, dedicated to rewarding excellence in managing the network and raising awareness about Natura 2000. The call for applications closes on 29 September 2017.

The Birds and Habitats Directives are the foundation for Natura 2000, the largest coordinated network of protected areas in the world. The principle is to combine nature conservation with sustainable human activities, and above all to involve local people and communities in safeguarding natural resources. According to the latest assessments, the Natura 2000 network contributes between 1.7 and 2.5 % to EU GDP, through a range of ecosystem services such as carbon storage, water purification, pollination and tourism. 

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