Nature Alert: environmental groups rally as European Commission threatens vital nature laws

May 12, 2015 2:58 pm

Today over 90 environmental NGOs across Europe will launch a joint online action to save European nature from Commission President Juncker’s deregulation agenda.

An internet action called Nature Alert will allow citizens across the 28 EU countries to participate in the European Commission public consultation and, by doing so, save the laws that protect nature in Europe. BirdLife Malta, along with International NGOs and the European Environmental Bureau will organize and promote the e-action.

The e-action marks the beginning of a pan-European, multi-annual campaign to stop any threats to current nature protection efforts and to obtain better implementation and enforcement of Europe’s nature laws. More than 90 environmental organisations have joined forces to mobilise members, supporters and the general public to tell the Commission that they want Europe’s nature laws to be maintained, better implemented and enforced.

Europe’s nature laws (the Birds and Habitats Directives) are recognised as some of the strongest in the world to protect animals, plant and habitats from extinction. Without these Directives, most of Malta´s sites protected today would have not been designated. Prior to Malta´s accession to the EU in 2004, there were two main legal instruments under which protected areas could be declared, allowing the declaration of “nature reserves” without defining what they are. In fact, only three sites could actually be regarded as “nature reserves” according to this national legislation.

However, thanks to the Nature Directives, Malta now has a larger network of protected areas, Natura 2000, covering 14% of its land and 2% of its marine sites. These laws have also allowed for projects such as the LIFE funded Yelkouan Shearwater project to thrive, improving the conservation status of the largest Yelkouan Shearwater colony in Malta.

The European Commission has decided to carry out an in-depth evaluation of both laws to determine whether they are effective in protecting our natural world. This process is happening in a context that is clearly hostile to nature conservation, as illustrated by President’s Juncker rhetoric on ‘business-friendly’ laws and cutting ‘green tape’.

The NGO internet action allows citizens to take part in the public consultation until 24 July 2015 and is the only opportunity for the public to express their views during this technical evaluation.


According to Angelo Caserta, Director of BirdLife Europe: “We have tons of scientific evidence showing that these laws work, when implemented. And numerous examples that these laws are no obstacles to any good economic development. So, my question to President Juncker and VP Timmermans is simple: with all there is to do in Europe, why undo nature laws?”

Tony Long, Director of WWF European Policy Office said: “WWF has been fighting for over 30 years to make sure Europe has comprehensive laws for the protection of nature which set a world standard. We are not prepared to stand by and let this legacy be wasted. No one will benefit from turning back the clock on Europe’s nature laws, not the natural world itself nor we as humans who depend on it for our livelihoods.  Now begins a popular appeal to keep nature alive.”

According to Jeremy Wates, Secretary General of the European Environmental Bureau: “The European Commission’s current fixation with deregulation and cutting so-called ‘red tape’ is blinding it to the effective solutions for endangered habitats and species. Instead of threatening to unpick these laws, the European Commission and member states should put more effort into implementing them, and make sure they deliver the enormous benefits they can bring to nature as well as to us and our economy”.

Magda Stoczkiewicz, Director of Friends of the Earth Europe said “We all have a right to nature – and chipping away at vital laws that help protect it would be a disaster for European citizens and the nature we love. We are mobilising people across the EU and will make our voices loud and clear– our nature is not up for grabs and we expect our politicians to protect it for all of us and for future generations.”