The EU’s flagship biodiversity programme, Natura 2000, needs more money and better management, the European Court of Auditors warned today (21 February).
The Court, which scrutinises the spending of EU money, also criticised the Birds and Habitats Directives, known as the Nature Directives, for not being implemented in full.
Last December, in a win for environmentalists, the European Commission decided that the Nature Directives were fit for purpose and did not need to be rewritten.
The Nature Directives came under scrutiny under the Juncker Commission’s ‘Better Regulation’ agenda.
The directives could have been weakened because the executive wanted to make them more ‘business friendly’, said activists.
A campaign supported by half a million people took off in response to the scrutiny.
Campaigners fear that weakening these laws would overturn decades of environmental achievements in the EU.
Business activities are not prohibited on Natura 2000 sites, but member states are required to ensure their preservation
EU countries are also required to take necessary conservation measures in order to maintain protected species.
Because biodiversity loss is one of the main environmental challenges facing the Union, an important element of the EU’s 2020 strategy is to improve the status of habitats and species, the report said.
24 of the sites in France, Germany, Spain, Poland and Romania were observed by Auditors— who concluded that the sites were not managing the Nature 2000 network sufficiently and that necessary conservation measures were often delayed or defined incorrectly.
Additionally, the Court reported that EU funds were not mobilised well enough to support and manage the large network.
“This audit shows that EU Member States are failing to implement the EU Nature Directives properly. It also demonstrates that Member States are not making use of EU money that could be made available to invest in nature and that would also help create jobs in the countryside,” Andreas Baumüller, head of natural resources at WWF European Policy Office, said.
“The setting-up of the Natura 2000 network was a long process. To achieve adequate protection of biodiversity across the Natura 2000 sites, the member states must still put in place proper conservation measures, appropriately funded and with a complete set of indicators measuring the results achieved,” said Nikolaos Milionis, a Member of the Court.
The European Commission said it is planning to adopt an action plan to improve the implementation of the Nature Directives in 2017.
“Member states authorities are free to decide the way their Natura 2000 network is managed and funded,” the executive said in response to the report.