European Commission to Review Habitats and Birds Directive
Monday, September 29, 2014
The line-up of the new European Commission was announced on the 10th September 2014, with a key change being the merge of the post of Commission for Environment with that of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, which will be filled by Karmenu Vella (a member of the Maltese Labour Party).
Priorities for Vella have already been outlined by the existing Commission, and amongst these is an ‘in-depth evaluation’ of The Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive ‘to assess the potential for merging them into a more modern piece of legislation’.
The Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora) is a key directive that was adopted in 1992. It aims to protect more than 1,000 species and over 220 ‘habitat types’, including special types of woodland, wetlands and meadows, that are considered to be of European importance.
The Birds Directive (Council Directive 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds) was adopted in 2009 and aims to protect all European wild birds and their habitats, especially through the designation of Special Protection Areas (SPA).
These two Directives currently form the cornerstone of Europe’s nature conservation policy and are built around the Natura 2000 network of protected sites and the strict system of species protection.
The Directives are implemented into UK law through various prices of legislation, including The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) in England, Wales and Scotland, and The Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc.) Regulations 1995 (as amended) in Northern Ireland.
Future changes to the Habitats and Birds Directives are likely to have implications on the legislation that transposes them into national law. Although at this stage it is unclear whether the requirements of the Directive(s) will change in great detail, it is worth considering the future changes to UK law that could result should there be an overhaul. It is certainly anticipated that further amendments to the UK Regulations will be undertaken to accommodate any new changes or requirements.
Other issues that the new Commission for Environment has been asked to prioritise include the negotiations on air quality strategy, assessing the state of platy of the circular economy package and implementing the reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy.