03/02/2016
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European Parliament votes for nature

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Dartford Warbler is one of many thousands of species which have benefited from the EU's Nature Directives, now voted overwhelmingly by MEPs to remain in place. Photo: Ben Hall (www.rspb-images.com).
Dartford Warbler is one of many thousands of species which have benefited from the EU's Nature Directives, now voted overwhelmingly by MEPs to remain in place. Photo: Ben Hall (www.rspb-images.com).
In an overwhleming vote at the European Parliament, MEPs have stood up to defend key EU nature laws which were under threat.

By an overwhelming majority of 592 to 52, MEPs yestereday voted to approve a report on the mid-term review of the EU's Biodiversity Strategy, which calls for the protection of the Birds and Habitats Directives.

The report was an ‘own-initiative report’ led by the Belgian MEP Mark Demesmaeker, and it stresses that full implementation and enforcement of these laws, collectively known as the Nature Directives, are needed to achieve the targets of the EU Biodiversity Strategy. The Strategy runs until 2020, by which time the EU has to halt biodiversity loss and achieve six targets. These targets cover EU legislation on nature, agriculture, fisheries, and invasive alien species, and also initiatives for restoring and connecting nature areas and action for biodiversity outside the EU.

The decisive result for nature conservation took place today in the Parliament’s plenary chamber in Strasbourg, where MEPs meet each month. The call to save the laws has come about due to the 'fitness check' process currently being carried out by the European Commission on the Nature Directives. There are fears they could be re-opened and potentially weakened.

Today’s result comes after a number of national governments showed their support for the directives, with the EU Environment Council opposing their re-opening back in December. A massive level of support from the public has also been demonstrated, with more than half a million people backing the laws during a consultation which ended last July. Furthermore, in the lead up to today’s vote thousands of people across Europe tweeted to MEPs urging them to back the report.

Responding to today’s vote, BirdLife Europe’s Senior Head of Policy Ariel Brunner said: “The Parliament has today sent an unequivocal message to Timmermans and Vella (EU Vice-President and Environment Comissioner, respectively): you have no mandate to re-open the Birds and Habitats Directives, but you do have a strong mandate to get them enforced and implemented. With such an unprecedented majority backing this message, it would be inexcusable for the Commission to choose to ignore it.”

The vote in Parliament is another milestone for the Nature Alert campaign, led by BirdLife and other conservation organisations. Results from the 'fitness check' are expected in April.
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