EU to Review Birds and Habitats Directives


As part of its Smart Regulation policy the Commission has initiated a Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT). Under the first stages of this programme, the Commission has reviewed the entire stock of EU legislation and decided on follow-up actions, one of which is to undertake a Fitness check of EU Nature legislation. Fitness checks are comprehensive policy evaluations assessing whether the regulatory framework for a policy sector is “fit for purpose”. Their findings will serve as a basis for drawing policy conclusions on how well EU policies have been performing and feed into possible consideration on the future of the relevant regulatory framework.

This fitness check is to be organised to accompany the evaluations required under Article 17 of the Habitats Directive and Article 12 of the Birds Directive. It covers Natura 2000 but also applies more generally to the Birds and Habitats Directives and related actions. As a first step in the exercise a mandate for the fitness check has been developed. This mandate sets out key questions to be addressed in relation to each of the fitness check criteria:

  • Effectiveness (Have the objectives been met?)
  • Efficiency (Were the costs involved reasonable?)
  • Coherence (Does the policy complement other actions or are there contradictions?)
  • Relevance (Is EU action still necessary?)
  • EU added value (Can or could similar changes have been achieved at national/regional level, or did EU action provide clear added value?)

In this context the fitness check will examine, among other things:

  • Implementation and integration successes and problems
  • The costs of implementation and of non-implementation of the legislation
  • Opportunities for improving implementation and reducing administrative burden without compromising the integrity of the purpose of the directives
  • The situation of implementation in different EU countries
  • The views of key stakeholder groups

Here is the mandate for the fitness check

Timeframe and key milestones for the Fitness Check

  • In October 2014 the Commission has awarded a 15 month study contract to a consortium of four organisations, led by MILIEU Legal and Policy Consultant in partnership with the Institute of European Environment Policy (IEEP), ICF International and ECOSYSTEMS Ltd.

  • In January 2015 the Commission will publish a list of already compiled key documents that are relevant to the fitness check and stakeholders will have an opportunity to notify the Commission if major publications or reviews are not included in this list.

  • In January 2015, with the assistance of the study contract, the Commission will undertake an evidence gathering consultation with all Member States & key stakeholder groups

  • In April 2015 the Commission plans to launch a 12 week public internet consultation

  • in April 2015 the Commission plans to publish the ‘State of Nature in the EU’ report , which will be based on Member States conservation status assessments for the Birds and Habitats Directives, foreseen. This analysis is being supported by the European Environment Agency and represents a key input to the fitness Check.

  • In June 2015 there should be opportunities for discussion on topics related to the Fitness Check during Green Week 2015 which will have a thematic focus on nature and biodiversity related issues

  • By the end of June 2015 the evidence gathering phase for the fitness check will be largely complete.

  • In late September 2015 the Commission plans to organise a dedicated conference on the Fitness Check in Brussels. This will allow the draft results of the evaluation to be shared with Member States and key stakeholder groups.

  • Early 2016 is the current deadline for the Commission to report on the results of the Fitness Check.


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