In a great victory for nature across national boundaries within Europe, on 7 December 2016, the European Commission agreed that the Nature Directives
, the vital laws that our wildlife and most valued natural places depend on for their protection, should be better implemented and not revised and weakened.
The Nature Directives were under threat as part of a review of regulation by the European Commission, called the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT). In this process the European Commission carried out a public consultation, to help it understand how important nature protection and its laws are to EU citizens. The response of the public was unprecedented, with over half a million Europeans
telling the EU to save the nature laws and make sure they are implemented, following a major awareness raising campaign by BirdLife Europe, the European Environmental Bureau, Friends of the Earth Europe, WWF Europe and over 120 European NGOs. In Cyprus this campaign was supported by BirdLife Cyprus, the Cyprus Conservation Foundation Terra Cypria, Friends of the Earth Cyprus and the Federation of Environmental Organisations of Cyprus.
During the review of the Nature Directives many have defended these crucial laws, in addition to scientists and concerned citizens: SMEs across Europe
and Environment Ministers, while both the European Parliament (nearly 80% of the Members of the European Parliament voted to protect nature) and the European Council identified the full implementation of the Nature Directives as key to achieving the targets of the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020
What are the Nature Directives?
Europe’s nature protection laws, specifically the Birds and Habitats Directives (often referred to as Nature Directives) are recognised as some of the strongest in the world to protect biodiversity, which is threatened.
The Birds Directive was the first legislation at a European level for nature protection and this was a development in recognition of the shared responsibility of migratory birds that know no borders. The Nature Directives have a crucial role in that they provide the foundation of nature protection across the EU: they identify and protect important places for nature (Natura 2000 sites), they set out requirements to restore and manage vital wildlife habitats. Thanks to these laws, Europe has the world’s largest network of protected areas covering about 20% of Europe’s land and 4% of its marine sites.
The Nature Directives are fundamental to nature protection in Europe, safeguarding more than 1,400 threatened species and one million square kilometres of natural habitats in Europe that fall under their protection. The Natura 2000 network of protected areas does not prohibit activities within its areas, but the network philosophy is that man must work together with nature; activities that take place must be sustainable and in harmony with the natural environment. Its goal is to ensure long-term survival of valuable and threatened species and habitats of Europe.
Cyprus has designated 63 Natura 2000 sites, but many of these face serious unsustainable development threats and there is an urgent need for the implementation of the management plans for these key nature areas. Among the Natura 2000 sites in Cyprus are Oroklini Lake
, Larnaka Salt Lakes, Cape Greco, Machairas Forest, Akamas Peninsula and Troodos National Forest Park.
What’s next for nature? As Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella said:
‘Our focus will now be on making sure that they are implemented in the most effective and efficient way to realise their full potential for nature, people and the economy’.
From all of us at BirdLife Cyprus, a heartfelt thank you to all who spoke up to protect nature!