N2000 Fitness Check

In 2016, the Birds and Habitats directives – the two pillars of the EU nature conservation policy that constitute the basis of the Natura 2000 network – were chosen to undergo a comprehensive “Fitness Check” by the Commission.

Why a Fitness Check?

“Fitness checks” are in essence policy evaluations assessing whether the regulatory framework for a policy sector is fit for its purpose. To figure this out, a thorough analysis including broad stakeholder consultation seeks to identify

  • excessive regulation
  • overlaps, gaps, inconsistencies
  • obsolete measures which may have appeared over time
  • the cumulative impact of legislation

Eventually, outcomes of a Fitness Check serve as a basis for drawing policy conclusions on the future of the relevant regulatory framework that was put under critical analysis by the European Commission.

See also brief info sheet on Fitness Checks as part of the Commission’s concept for Smart Regulation.

Nature Directives Fitness Check: Process & Results

EUROPARC was involved in a wide stakeholder consultation to assess the fitness for purpose of the Birds and Habitats Directives, together with a broad range of other environmental organisations. After the evidence gathering process and the enormous open consultation, which has seen more than 500.000 replies, the European Commission announced on the 7th December 2016 the final conclusion that:

…the European Birds and Habitats Directives remain relevant and fit for purpose.” (Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries)

This means their effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, relevance and EU added value have been recognised.

EUROPARC welcomes this results of the Fitness Check process, as it confirms that the Nature Directives are crucial for the future of biodiversity in Europe and also asserts the hard work of EUROPARC members in the management of Natura 2000 sites.

The positive conclusion of this long process is a great news today for nature and EU citizens. It is the recognition of the tremendous work that Natura 2000 site managers and protected areas authorities are daily doing on the ground.”, said Ignace Schops, EUROPARC President

Next steps: better implementation and cross-cutting integration

However, positive the conclusion on policy level, the evaluation process clearly identified the need to improve the implementation of the Directives and their coherence with broader socio-economic objectives, including other EU policy areas such as energy, agriculture and fisheries.

Here Karmenu Vella, acknowledged that Proteced Areas are at the nexus of various agendae, integrating nature conservation and sustainable development across a broad range of societal themes, such as agriculture, health, tourism and community engagement.

EUROPARC members, as guardians of Europe’s biodiversity, are the most important source of information on the implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives.

Accordingly, Ignace Schops ensured that:

“with our wide network, we will now actively support the European Commission to contribute to ensure a better implementation of the Directives.”

Download here the Fitness Check Evaluation and conclusions published at the end of the consultation process.
Access here the Fitness Check report
The EUROPARC position on EU Nature legislation
More on the Fitness Check process
On the 2nd February, the European Parliament successfully approved the report on the mid term review of the EU Biodiversity Strategy.