Select Committee on European Communities Eighteenth Report


Letter of invitation to submit written evidence

Sub-Committee C (Chairman: the Earl of Cranbrook) has decided to conduct an enquiry into European Union policy on biodiversity, and in particular the state of implementation in the Member States of the Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds (79/409/EEC) and the Directive on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora (92/43/EEC). Reference will also be made to the European Community Biodiversity Strategy, on which a Communication by the Commission (COM(98)42) was adopted by the Council in June 1998; the Commission is required to produce biodiversity action plans for specific sectors (e.g. agriculture) within two years and a substantive progress report by June this year.

The 1979 Wild Birds Directive was implemented in UK legislation by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This Directive requires the preservation of a sufficient diversity of habitats for all naturally occurring species of wild birds, coupled with the designation of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) to conserve the habitats of certain rare species and migratory species. The 1992 Habitats and Species Directive aims at establishing `favourable conservation status' for habitat types and species of European interest, listed in detailed annexes, by the designation of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). The UK transposed this Directive into national law by the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c.) Regulations 1994, without primary legislation. Together, these two Directives are intended to result in the establishment of a coherent European ecological network of sites, to be known as Natura 2000. The first implementation report by Member States is due by 5th June 2000; thereafter, the EU Commission will review the series and report by 5th June 2002.

Written evidence is invited by 4 May 1999, so that oral evidence can start to be taken that month. In particular, the Sub-Committee would be interested in having views and information on the following questions:

1  Natura 2000 sites

  i.  In relation to the objectives of these Directives, and the required timetable, has there been adequate progress in selecting and declaring SPAs and SACs in Member States of the European Union generally and in the UK in particular?

  ii.  Have the criteria for designation of sites and the underlying scientific rationale given rise to any problems in practice?

  iii.  How effectively can a system based on sites with designated boundaries respond to changing environmental conditions, whether natural or human-induced?

  iv.  Are there certain rare or migratory birds, or habitats or species of European interest that are under-represented in the sites (on lists forwarded to the European Commission)?

  v.  Is there sufficient representation of estuarine and marine habitats and species (including birds) in the Natura 2000 series in UK, and in other Member States?

  vi.  Are adequate measures in place in Member States, the UK in particular, to protect the declared European interest of sites, terrestrial and maritime?

2  Biodiversity conservation

  i.  Have the Directives been successful in improving the conservation status of the species and habitats which they were intended to protect?

  ii.  Outside SPAs and SACs, has the legal protection of listed habitats and species been adequate, and have Member States accorded sufficient priority to enforcing these measures?

  iii.  Do the Directives list all the key species and habitats which require special conservation measures, including maritime species and habitats, if the EU is to fulfil its obligations under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity?

3  Implementation issues

  i.  Has the UK Government been sufficiently active in implementing the Directives, for example in monitoring declared sites and reporting as required?

  ii.  Is the role of the Commission in encouraging compliance by Member States with the Directives sufficient? What obstacles have become apparent, and how could these be overcome?

  iii.  Are the obligations of competent authorities under the Directives being adequately exercised in Member States, in particular in UK? Are conflicts emerging with regional or local development aspirations?

  iv.  Are the criteria for promoting sustainable development in designated sites coherent and defensible?

  v.  Has the burden of meeting the requirements of the Directives fallen unfairly on particular Member States or groups in society? If so, how should this problem be addressed?

  vi.  Have certain Member States been more successful than others in implementing the Directives and, if so, what lessons can be drawn from this?

4  Other policies

  i.  Do other national policies (e.g. agriculture or transport) in the Member States, and in the UK in particular, give sufficient consideration to biodiversity?

  ii.  Do the Commission (and other EU institutions, projects and programmes) attach sufficient weight and priority to the Directives and to EU strategy for biodiversity when taking decisions on funding?

  iii.  Are there any aspects of EU policy which run counter to the achievement of the Directives' objectives? If so, what policy changes or formal processes should be considered to address such shortcomings?

5  European Environment Agency

  i.  Do the activities and responsibilities of the European Environment Agency, in support of Community biodiversity policy, need to be extended or adapted in any respects?

Evidence submissions should not exceed 4000 words (on about 6 sides of A4). If convenient, they may be sent by e-mail to

THOMAS RADICE — Tel: 0171 219 3015
Clerk to Sub-Committee C — Fax: 0171 219 6715
European Communities Committee
House of Lords
London SW1A 0PW  26 March 1999

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