Wilderness Policy

Watch out for the Natura 2000 fitness check

The EU Birds and Habitats Directives are the centerpiece of EU environmental legislation, they form the basis of the Natura 2000 network. Nature conservation obviously hurts some of the land use interests, which have pressured national governments and the Commission for a review of the directives.

Eventually, the European Commission decided in September 2013 to start a process to check both directives under the so-called EC REFIT Communication – Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme. This is a program which checks directives and legislations for whether they are fit for purpose, based on criteria of effectiveness, efficiency relevance, coherence and EU-added value. The outcomes of such a “fitness check” will serve as a basis for drawing policy conclusions, but they can result in a full review of directives and legislation.

The Natura 2000-fitness check is being managed by the Nature Unit of DG Environment (head Stefan Leiner, evaluation co-ordinator deputy head Michael O´Briain). The process itself is sub-contracted and performed with the support of a consortium consisting of the consultancies Milieu, Inner City Fund (ICF), Ecosystems Ltd, together with the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) (see Milieu’s news section archive for 4 November 2014)

The process is based on the “European Commission’s Fitness Check Mandate for Nature Legislation published on 25 February 2014”.

It is also clearly reflected in a sentence in the mission letter of president Juncker to commissioner Vella (October 2014): “Continuing to overhaul the existing environmental legislative framework to make it fit for purpose. In the first part of the mandate, I would ask you to carry out an in-depth evaluation of the Birds and Habitats directives and assess the potential for merging them into a more modern piece of legislation.”

Civil society organizations interested in making the two nature directives stronger and more effective must watch out and take an active part in the evaluation process. Our team found out during the recent visit to Brussels that less than 10 days left to give inputs on best practice examples before the start of the public consultation process!

We urge you to take part in the Natura 2000 Fitness Check to make sure that Europe´s nature including the last great places of Wilderness will be effectively protected for future generations. Please fill out the Evidence Gathering Questionnaire and:

  • submit the contribution through any EU-level representative bodies consulted as part of the evidence-gathering phase which can be accessed here;
  • submit your contribution through the national focal points (relevant Ministries);submit published documents with examples of case studies that can be taken into account for the analysis of the questions of the Evidence Gathering Questionnaire;
  • submit an individual (unsolicited) contribution;
  • contribute through the public consultation.
  • European Parliament buildings in Brussels


The European Wilderness Society will of course pay attention to represent the interest of Wilderness conservation organisations and we want the highlight the  EC Wilderness Guidance for Natura 2000 managers as an important  document, which will lead to the inclusion of more Wilderness areas within the Natura 2000 sites!

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