The Habitats Directive (more formally known as Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora) is a European Union directive adopted in 1992 as an EU response to the Berne Convention. It is one of the EU's two directives in relation to wildlife and nature conservation, the other being the Birds Directive. It is one of European nature's policies that establishes one organised network—Natura 2000,[circular reference] which intends to protect nature and wildlife. The Habitats Directive requires national governments to specify areas that are expected to be ensuring the conservation of flora and fauna species.
The directive assures the conservation of endangered native animal and plant divisions. It aims to protect 220 habitats and approximately 1,000 species listed in the directive's Annexes. These are species and habitats which are considered to be of European interest, following criteria given in the directive. It directs member states of the EU to take measures to maintain the "favourable conservation status" of protected habitats and species.
- Annex I covers habitats,
- Annex II species requiring designation of Special Areas of Conservation,
- Annex IV species in need of strict protection, and
- Annex V species whose taking from the wild can be restricted by European law.
The directive led to the setting up of a network of Special Areas of Conservation, which together with the existing Special Protection Areas form a network of protected sites across the European Union called Natura 2000. Article 17 of the directive requires EU Member States to report on the state of their protected areas every six years. The first complete set of country data was reported in 2007.
From 1988 to 1992, the policy was given importance at the national level by policy experts, scientists and ecologists and later on spawned political, social and administrative discussions within the states that are engaged in the policy in the 1990s.
In 1998, the protection of the habitat of the European hamster[circular reference] —Korenwolf, received a lot of attention from the public and the media during discussions projected by the Non-governmental Organization responsible for the matter. The extinction of the species symbolised the failed conservation of wild flora and fauna and other species of plants and animals and the deficiency of the pursuit for nature policies in the Netherlands.
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Due to differences in nature conservation traditions, national problems have arisen in the implementation of the directive. Since member states in the south and east of Europe participated less in nature policies, these states experienced misfits in promoting the new EU-originating provisions. In Germany, Austria, Italy and Belgium, the observation of conflicts between various government layers have caused prolonged delays in the management of nature policies. On the other hand, in member states such as United Kingdom and Sweden, positive outcomes have developed due to stakeholder involvement, pro-active authorities, agencies responsible for implementation and public participation.
Not only does the Habitats Directive promote nature and wildlife conservation but it also develops a disquisition between "economy" and "ecology" (Van der Zouwen and Van den Top 2002). Several discussions have been made regarding the directive and its flaws by the Dutch politics and administration— these discussions are still going on until today. The disadvantages of the policy have been believed to raise awareness on Europe's implementation of policies. Representatives of provinces and municipalities have been putting efforts in implementing nature policies within their area and scope. The Habitats Directive and Birds Directive were considered as the first legitimate effort in pursuing Europeanisation.
- "EUROPA – Environnement – Nature and Biodiversity – Homepage". European Commission. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
- "Joint Nature Conservation Committee – European Legislation". Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
- Natura 2000
- EUROPA – Environnement – Nature and Biodiversity – Mission Statement Archived 19 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine
- "Joint Nature Conservation Committee – EC Habitats Directive". Government of the United Kingdom. 30 October 1994. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
- Epstein, Yaffa (7 May 2016). "Favourable Conservation Status for Species: Examining the Habitats Directive's Key Concept through a Case Study of the Swedish Wolf". Journal of Environmental Law. 28 (2): 221–244. doi:10.1093/jel/eqw006. ISSN 0952-8873.
- European hamster