16. 04. 2011.

Article 6(2) - Habitats Directive

In the short introduction series to Article 6 we are, in this issue, focusing on paragraph 2.

Text of 6(2) says: ’’Member States shall take appropriate steps to avoid, in the special areas of conservation, the deterioration of natural habitats and the habitats of species as well as disturbances of the species for which the areas have been designated, in so far as such disturbance could be significant in relation to the objectives of this directive.’’

The article takes as a starting point the prevention principle: ’’Member States shall take appropriate

steps to avoid, in the special areas of conservation, the deterioration... as well as disturbances…’’.

These measures go beyond the simple management measures necessary to ensure conservation since

these are already covered by Article 6(1). The words ‘avoid’ and ‘could be significant’ stress the anticipatory nature of the measures to be taken. It is not acceptable to wait until deterioration or disturbances occur before taking measures.

Article 6(2) applies permanently in the special areas of conservation (SACs). It can concern past, present or future activities or events (for instance, in the case of a toxic spill affecting a wetland, this article

would mean that all preventive measures should have been taken to avoid the spillage, even if its

location is distant from the wetland). If an already existing activity in a SAC causes deterioration of

natural habitats or disturbance of species for which the area has been designated, it must be covered by the necessary conservation measures foreseen in Article 6(1). This may require, if appropriate, that the negative impact is brought to an end either by stopping the activity or by taking mitigating measures. This can include economic compensation.

How to asses disturbance and deterioration? Deterioration or disturbance is assessed against the conservation status of species and habitats concerned. At a site level, the maintenance of the favourable conservation status has to be evaluated against the initial conditions provided in the Natura 2000 standard data forms when the site was proposed for selection or designation, according to the contribution of the site to the ecological coherence of the network. This notion should be interpreted in a dynamic way according to the evolution of the conservation status of the habitat or of the species.

The scope of this article is broader than that of Article 6(3) and (4) which apply only to plans and projects requiring an authorisation. It is also applicable to the performance of activities which do not necessarily require prior authorisation, like agriculture or fishing.

More information about Article 6(2) can be found on the website of European Commission, DG Environment.

Milka Gvozdenovic, Young Researchers of Serbia

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