Natura 2000: EU Directives Overview
In order to safeguard the natural diversity of Europe the EU has made the protection of nature a matter of common concern and has enacted two Directives for this purpose.
- Directive No 2009/147/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2009 on the conservation of wild birds (Birds Directive)
- Council Directive No 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Habitats Directive)
On the basis of these two Directives a number of legal provisions on the protection of species and habitats have to be implemented in all Member States. An important example for these protective provisions is the Bern Convention from the year 1979. Moreover, these two Directives are the most important instruments regarding the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at European level. Both Directives provide for the creation of protected areas, where endangered species and habitats can be preserved for the future. This network of protected areas is called "Natura 2000".
The national protection categories, such as for example nature conservation area, national park, landscape protection area, and biosphere park, remain unaffected by the two Directives. Most national parks and nature conservation areas are also part of the Natura 2000 network without changing their specific protection status.
The two EU Nature Conservation Directives constitute the legal basis:
Directive No 2009/147/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2009 on the conservation of wild birds (Birds Directive)
The Directive aims at protecting all wild birds naturally occurring on the territory of the European Community. This goal is achieved by means of establishing bird protection areas as well as by specific provisions concerning the utilisation of species. Protected areas according to the Birds Directive are part of the Natura 2000 network. In these areas, which are characterised by the occurrence of the species listed in Annex I or by serving as resting place or wintering area, the respective birds’ populations are to be protected and preserved by specific measures.
Bird hunting in the EU is regulated by the provisions of the Birds Directive. The Member States have to design their legal provisions on hunting in such a way that it is ensured that only bird species mentioned in Annex II may be hunted. However, these species must not be hunted during the individual stages of their reproduction, and, if they are migratory birds, during their return to their breeding areas. Article 9 of the Directive standardises the conditions for the exemptions from these prohibitions, which the Member States may grant in special cases. The hunting of birds in “special protection areas” is not excluded in principle.
Council Directive No 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (Habitats Directive).
The aim of this Directive shall be to contribute towards ensuring the protection, conservation, and restoration of a sufficient and representative sample of an area of a sufficient and representative size of natural habitats in Europe. Particularly endangered and rare animal and plant species should also be preserved by means of sufficient protection of areas. These protection areas constitute, together with the bird protection areas, the Natura 2000 network.
The 27 Member States of the EU are subdivided into 9 bio-geographical zones. Austria has a share in the Alpine and in the continental bio-geographical region. In each of these 9 bio-geographical regions the habitats and species, which are listed in the Habitats Directive shall be sufficiently preserved and protected by means of the identification of protection areas.
Beyond the network of protection areas the Habitats Directive contains also a rigid set of rules on species protection outside the Natura 2000 areas (Articles 12 and 13) and on the monitoring of the conservation status of habitats and species (Article 11) in the whole territory of the Member States.
In Natura 2000 areas all plans and projects which are not related to the administration of the areas shall be subjected to an assessment of the implications.
The legal bases for this assessment of the implications are laid down in Article 6 of the Habitats Directive. In Austria these provisions are implemented in the respective Nature Conservation Laws of the Federal Provinces.