The two major Directives in the field of protection of European wildlife are Council Directive 79/409/EEC (Birds Directive) and Council Directive 92/43/EEC (Habitats Directive). Together, the two Directives represent the most ambitious initiative ever undertaken to conserve European biodiversity and they are the cornerstone of the ecological network Natura 2000.
Aims and objectives of two Directives
Both Directives focus on protection of species and designation of valuable sites for them. Regarding site designations and protection of species, the Directives foresee a number of objectives, such as the designation of Special Areas of Conservation (Habitats Directive) and Special Protection Areas (Birds Directive) and the establishment of sites of Community importance under the title ‘Natura 2000’. Furthermore, one of Directives aims to establish the necessary conservation measures for these sites and to monitor the conservation status of habitats and species, as well as to take appropriate steps to avoid deterioration (in these areas) of natural habitats and the habitats of species. Designation of species that may be traded, and species whose exploitation may be subject to management measures is also one of the main objectives. The Directives foresee a system to monitor the incidental capture and killing of certain species and prohibition of certain methods of capture / killing / transport, and a derogation scheme for species that may be legally killed, captured and traded.
Establishing an appropriate administrative structure
A Natura 2000 proposal is a prerequisite for membership of the European Union. In order to implement the different legal acts, each country has to designate at the appropriate levels (national, regional and local) responsible authorities – so, candidate or accession countries already need an appropriate administrative structure. Responsibilities need to be clearly defined among the different authorities for the various activities, i.e. for planning; establishment of policies and guidelines, designation of sites for enhanced protection; putting in place species protection measures; assuring implementation of plans and policies, monitoring; data collection; and reporting. There has to be sufficient cooperation and communication between various departments – meaning, no overlap of competence between individuals or between ministries/agencies/levels of administration.
Achieving the aims of the Directives
The administrative system has to have special conservation expertise aligned with requirements of the two nature conservation Directives. This usually entails cooperation and collaboration between the ministry responsible for administrative and expert tasks (planning, reporting, permitting and inspection) and the national expert institution dealing with inventory, monitoring and expert analysis (i.e. the Institute for Nature Protection). Ideally, countries should have special institutions for protected areas, also institutions at regional/local level for management of protected natural values on their territory including sites of ecological network(s). In order to achieve the aims of the Directives the independence of the regulatory body should ensure monitoring, inspection and an efficient enforcement. No less important is that the administrative procedures of other administrations (i.e. hunting, fishing, agriculture, forestry) are aligned to nature protection provisions. Breaches of legislation in the implementation of Directives need to be followed up, and cases taken to court.