Select Committee on European Communities Twenty-Second Report



By the Select Committee appointed to consider Community proposals, whether in draft or otherwise, to obtain all necessary information about them, and to make reports on those which, in the opinion of the Committee, raise important questions of policy or principle, and on other questions to which the Committee considers that the special attention of the House should be drawn.


Biodiversity in the European Union (Final Report):
International Issues



1.  This is a sequel to our Interim Report[1] of last July and deals with further matters concerning policy on biodiversity in the European Union. The bulk of the evidence to the inquiry has already been published with the Interim Report.[2] Part 3 of this Final Report contains a summary of recommendations from both Reports.

2.  The immediate purpose of the Interim Report was to draw attention to legislative measures which were urgently needed, and indeed overdue, in order to put the United Kingdom in a better position to meet its obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the EC Directives on Birds[3] and Habitats[4].

3.  The background to this Report has already been set out in Part 1 of the Interim Report. In particular, readers may wish to remind themselves of the definition of "biodiversity" (IR paragraph 4), the Convention on Biological Diversity (paragraphs 5-6), the themes and policy areas of the EC Biodiversity Strategy (paragraph 7), the national Biodiversity Action Plans ("BAPs") and the UK BAP (paragraphs 8-10), the Natura 2000 network of Sites of Community Importance (SCIs), based on designation of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under the Birds Directive and Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) under the Habitats Directive, and the process of review of proposed Natura 2000 sites by Biogeographic Region, overseen by the Commission, the European Environment Agency (EEA)[5] and the European Topic Centre on Nature Conservation.


4.  The UK has a particular interest in the Atlantic Biogeographic Region, not only because the whole of the British Isles falls into this region but also because of shared nature conservation interests with neighbouring countries (Ireland, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and Denmark). A map of the biogeographic regions is overleaf. Information on other regions of the European Union is less complete (and less relevant to biodiversity in the British Isles). Some information about the state of biodiversity across the EU and progress with Natura 2000 can be had from the evidence to this inquiry and from various publications produced by, in particular, the European Commission (DG Environment),[6] the EEA,[7] the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB),[8] BirdLife International,[9] the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP)[10]and WWF.[11] None of the readily available information, however, provides a full picture; it would require a research project to complete that. In that respect we found that, in practice, it was not possible to do justice to one of the main tasks we originally set ourselves (IR paragraph 3).

1   Biodiversity in the European Union (Interim Report): United Kingdom Measures, 18th Report, 1998­99, HL 100. Back

2   All references in the present Final Report to material in the Interim Report are prefaced by "IR"; references to this Report are prefaced by "FR" where the context requires. Back

3   79/409/EEC: Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds, OJ L103, 25 April 1979. Back

4   92/43/EEC: Directive on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora, OJ L206, 22 July 1992. Back

5   Although this term is also familiar as the acronym for the European Economic Area, in the context of EC environmental policy it is universally understood to mean the European Environment Agency. Back

6   Formerly known as Directorate General XI (DG XI); see note of meeting at Appendix 5 and progress chart known as "Natura Barometer", referred to in paragraph 48 of this Report. Back

7   For example, Environment in the European Union at the Turn of the Century, EEA, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg, 1999. Back

8   IR pp 35-41. Back

9   IR pp 41-44; see also footnotes to paragraphs 29 and 44. Back

10   IR pp 68-73; QQ 142-148. Back

11   IR pp 1-7; FR Appendix 4 and pp 58­66; Natura 2000: Opportunities and Obstacles, WWF, Vienna, 1999. Back

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