The Action Plan adopted today consists of 15 actions to be carried out by 2019 to rapidly improve the implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives, which are the EU's flagship nature policies.
These Directives establish the largest coordinated network of biodiversity-rich protected areas in the world (Natura 2000 network), covering more than 18% of land and 6% of sea in the EU. These protected areas alone contribute between 1.7 and 2.5% to EU GDP through the provision of ecosystem services such as carbon storage, water purification, pollination and tourism. The Action Plan is about improving the management of these areas, connecting nature protection and socio-economic activities more broadly, and engaging with national authorities, stakeholders and young people.
The Nature Directives (Birds Directive (1979) and Habitats Directive (1992)) were subject to a 'Fitness Check' which provided an overall performance evaluation of their effectiveness and efficiency as part of the Commission's Regulatory Fitness and Performance (REFIT) programme. The Fitness Check engaged all stakeholders, including a positive mobilisation of over 500,000 citizens expressing support for the Directives through the Commission's public consultation - a record level of responses.
The Commission's Conclusions on the Fitness Check of the Birds and Habitats Directives confirmed that the Nature Directives are fit for purpose but achievement of their objectives and realisation of their full potential will depend upon substantial improvement in their implementation both in relation to effectiveness and efficiency, working in partnership with different stakeholder communities in the Member States and across the EU to deliver practical results on the ground.