Leaked document shows that EU environmental laws are doing a good job

Published by Marie-Amélie Brun on

17th May, 2016

Image: Cartoon by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) published this week

Leaked EU documents have shown that Europe’s nature laws are doing a good job – despite efforts to undermine them from the EU Commission.

The EU commission met this week to debate the future of the environmental laws. At the same time a study was leaked to the website euractiv.com revealing that European laws are doing a great job at protecting the environment.

It all started last July when the EU Commission opened the possibility of changing Europe’s Nature Laws (Birds and Habitats Directives) claiming they weren’t sure about how useful they are and if they are standing in the way of development.

They decided to launch a campaign asking the opinion of Europeans and the answer was clear : over half a million citizens responded in favour of the maintain of the laws protecting wildlife and nature.

Since then, activist groups all over Europe announced their discontent and campaigns have been organised by Birdlife Europe, the European Environmental Bureau, Friends of the Earth Europe, WWF Europe and over 120 European NGOs.

However the EU Commission decided to keep studying the nature laws with a view to a possible revision. To do so, they tasked some experts to do a study of the impact of those laws. Environmental groups have been asking for the publication of the study for a few months, without results.

But this week during the debate, the study was leaked. The conclusion of the experts is clear, the laws are effective and indeed protect our environment.

Now environmentalists are asking why the document has not been published before. The Commission blames the refugees crisis and the Brexit. When UK Prime Minister David Cameron hailed the Birds and Habitats Directives as a reason to vote Remain on 23 June.

Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, a Dutch MP, who had the occasion to talk with Frans Timmermans, Commission First Vice-President, claimed the document should have been published in January.

“The evaluation concludes that the directives are fit for purpose. The majority of the evidence across the five evaluation criteria shows that the legislation is appropriately designed and that, over time, implementation has improved, bringing important outcomes and impacts” Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy.

The European Union and in particular the Nature Laws have played an important role in the conservation of habitats and species across the continent. As the study points out, if the laws wouldn’t have been in place there is little doubt that “unsustainable management practices would most likely have prevailed”.

Environmental groups are now demanding that the revision will be abandoned. It will certainly damaged all the work done up until now : “A revision would take years, thereby creating a long period of uncertainty which would distract from the urgent need to implement the existing legislation. The biodiversity crisis is real. We’re losing species and habitats every day in Europe.” Andreas Baumüller, Head of Natural Resources at the WWF European Policy Office.

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Marie-Amélie Brun

Marie-Amélie is a contributor to the Green News. She is currently completing a Masters in International Cooperation and Multilingual Communication at the University Grenoble Alpes.