The Environmental Implementation Review

The Environmental Implementation Review, a new tool produced by EU Commission - DG Environment is available at

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Yesterday, the European Commission announced a new way to help Member States applying EU rules, on the level of waste management, nature and biodiversity, air quality, water quality and management: The Environmental Implementation Review (EIR).

Environmental Implementation Review: improving the implementation of EU environmental policy

The full implementation of EU environment legislation could save the EU economy €50 billion every year in health costs and direct costs to the environment. According to Eurobarometer, 3 out of 4 citizens consider European laws necessary to protect the environment in their country, and 4 out of 5 agree that European institutions should be able to check whether the laws are being correctly applied.

The Environmental Implementation Review aims to:

  • improve the common knowledge about existing implementation gaps on EU environmental policy and law in each Member State;
  • provide new solutions complementary to legal enforcement;
  • address the underlying root and often cross-sectoral causes of these gaps;
  • and stimulate exchanges of good practices.

Based on the diagnostic, the Commission would be ready to accompany the Member States’ own efforts with technical and financial support and if necessary, with expertise underpinning structural reforms.

Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, said: “Patchy and uneven implementation of environmental rules helps no one. Improving how environmental laws are applied benefits citizens, public administrations and the economy.  This is where the Environmental Implementation Review (EIR) comes in. The European Commission is committed to helping Member States make sure that the quality of their citizens’ air, water and waste management is of the highest standard. This Review provides the information, the tools and the timetable to do this”.

The Environmental Implementation Review Package

What does the EIR say about Protecting Nature and Biodiversity:

policy findings, successful practices, and concrete actions suggested to Member States

Specifically about protecting nature and biodiversity, the Review shows that, despite many local success stories, the implementation of EU nature legislation needs to be stepped up, as confirmed by the EU Fitness Check of the Birds and Habitats Directives. Otherwise, biodiversity loss will continue in the EU, compromising the capacity of ecosystems to provide for human needs in the future.

The most frequently reported pressures and threats to biodiversity are:

  • For land ecosystems: non-sustainable agricultural practices, the modification of natural conditions, and pollution.
  • For marine biodiversity: unsustainable fishing and harvesting of aquatic resources, modification of natural conditions, climate change and ocean acidification, pollution by chemicals, plastics and noise.

Policy findings

– The assessment of the 28 EIR country reports reflects the findings of the State of Nature 2015 report prepared by the European Environmental Agency, i.e. the overall status of protected species and habitats has not significantly improved over the last six years.

– Across the EU, more than three-quarters of the habitats assessments indicate an unfavourable conservation status and a significant proportion is continuing to deteriorate. As regards non-bird species, 60% of EU level assessments indicate an unfavourable status. The status of 15 % of all wild bird species is near threatened, declining or depleted and another 17% are threatened.

– While there has been progress in many areas and there are local success stories, there are significant gaps in implementation, financing and policy integration. At the current rate of efforts, biodiversity loss would continue in the EU with potentially serious consequences for the capacity of natural ecosystems to provide for human needs in the future.

Only seven Member States have (almost) completed the designation of “Sites of Community Interest” under the Habitats Directive. 17 Member States have designated most sites on land but there are insufficiencies in the marine component of their network. The remaining four Member States have insufficiencies both on land and sea.

– Systemic issues causing poor implementation of the Nature Directives are the absence of management plans for Natura 2000 sites or their management. The country reports provide evidence for three Member States that are struggling with applying appropriate assessment procedures to determine the effect of new plans and projects on Natura 2000 sites.

A lack of knowledge on species, habitats and sites is one of the major obstacles to effective implementation in most of the Member States, including with regards to marine ecosystems.

– Further issues are a lack of adequate funding, a lack of human resources and poor involvement and engagement of local communities and stakeholders such as landowners and land users.

Successful practices

France has developed an effective participatory approach for the management of its Natura 2000 network, which has also created several hundred jobs. The French Green and Blue Trails (TGB) provide a planning tool used by the regional and local levels to establish coherent ecological networks.

Belgium: Thanks to an extensive range of Natura 2000 sites restoration measures carried out since 2003 in the frame of six coordinated LIFE projects covering several thousands of hectares of peat bogs and wetlands in the Belgian Ardennes16, the Belgian authorities were able to report, in 2013, significant positive trends in the conservation status of a dozen different habitat types and associated species protected by the EU Habitats Directive .

Estonia has provided one of the most complete integrated planning frameworks for the financing of Natura 2000 sites from different EU funds. Estonia presented a comprehensive priorities action framework, including conservation priorities, measures needed to achieve improvement of conservation status of the protected habitats and species, and related financing needs, together with a thorough analysis of financing opportunities.

The Netherlands is a leader in the area of natural capital accounting. It has finalised a large natural capital programme19 providing evidence on how the concepts of natural capital and ecosystem services can be integrated into decision-making in different domains, such as agriculture, flood defence and international trade. The Netherlands also tested local level ecosystem accounts. NGOs, companies and governmental organisations have agreed to collaborate on the valuation of natural and social capital.

Suggested Actions

·         Complete the site designation process, including in the marine part, and put in place clearly defined conservation objectives and the necessary conservation measures for the sites and provide adequate resources for their implementation in order to maintain/restore species and habitats of community interest to a favourable conservation status across their natural range. Complete and update prioritised action framework (PAFs). Improve knowledge and data availability to be in a better position to implement appropriate conservation measures. AT, BE, BG, CY, CZ, DE, DK, EE, EL, ES, FI, FR, HR, HU, IE, IT, LT, LU, LV, MT, NL, PL, PT, RO, SE, SI, SK, UK
·         Ensure that Natura 2000 management plans are being effectively implemented with administrative capacity and finance. Build capacity of competent authorities (central, regional, site management bodies) to implementing Management Plans, increasing awareness about Natura 2000 and incentives for investments promoting its benefits, and tackling illegal activities affecting wildlife through enhanced enforcement, both within and outside Natura 2000 areas. BG, EE, EL, IT, PL, RO, SI, SK
·         Develop and promote smart and streamlined implementation approaches, in particular as regards site and species permitting procedures, ensuring the necessary knowledge and data availability and strengthen communication with stakeholders. AT, BG, CY, CZ, DE, EE, ES, HU, IT, LT, MT, PL, PT
·         Continue supporting the mapping and assessment of ecosystems and their services, evaluation and development of natural capital accounting systems. AT, BE, BG, CY, CZ, DE, DK, EE, EL, ES, FI, FR, HR, HU, IE, IT, LT, LV, MT, NL, PL, PT, RO, SE, SI, SK
·         Build the capacity of the administration in order to improve Appropriate Assessment procedures and prevent deterioration of Natura 2000 sites from damaging developments. CY, EL, IT
·         Ensure the appropriate enforcement of hunting bans for protected bird species. CY, FR, MT
·         Strengthen the integration of biodiversity concerns into other policies (in particular in agriculture, but also in forestry, fisheries, urban and infrastructure planning and tourism) and the promotion of communication between actors. DE, DK, FR, PT, SI
·         Optimise the contribution of the Natura 2000 and the national nature networks to achieving good conservation status, and to reduce habitat fragmentation, atmospheric nitrogen deposition, desiccation and acidification. NL
·         Avoid further habitat fragmentation and take measures to restore connectivity. LU
·         Ensure that the Rural Development Programmes and the implementation of greening favour biodiversity measures and contribute to achieving a favourable conservation status of habitats and species, especially for the maintenance of High Nature Value farming LU, NL, RO
·         Capitalise valuable natural capital to create jobs and income. In this context, promoting further sustainable tourism. EL, ES
·         Continue to support the ongoing work on a sustainable partnership for  biodiversity protection, sustainable development and climate change adaptation and mitigation measures in the Outermost Regions and the Overseas Countries and Territories FR, UK
·         Improve the incentives for foresters and farmers to better protect forest and grassland habitat. Ensure the sustainable forest management and promote efficient use of biomass. LV, SK

For more information about the EIR please contact Stefania Petrosillo, EUROPARC Policy officer at s.petrosillo @