Activity: Talk or presentation types › Oral presentation › Scientific
Promoting Connectivity in the EU. What role for EU nature conservation law?
The main question addressed in this paper is: does the current legislative framework establishing the EU’s Natura 2000 network of protected areas require Member States to adopt connectivity measures to combat forest fragmentation and help biodiversity adapt to climate change? From the experiences from 1992 until now, it can be concluded that Natura 2000 alone does not constitute a coherent network in the sense of truly interconnected protected areas throughout an entire country or throughout the whole of the EU. Additional, domestic instruments, mainly in the field of nature conservation law and spatial planning law are needed to create connectivity between Europe’s protected areas in general and its forests in particular. Even in case domestic instruments are applied to achieve connectivity, we still cannot be certain that the network remains just an ecological network on paper. Much depends on the actual application of all the laws and policies on activities within the areas that constitute the network. Farmers and other local landowners have to refrain from harmful activities, and/or have to actively manage the area to support the area’s connectivity function. Financial incentives are needed to make this happen. Fortunately, we can observe that EU Member States increasingly do apply such domestic instruments in order to achieve connectivity. Domestic policies in various Member States provide for additional connectivity instruments that add to the Natura 2000 network. Domestic subsidy schemes across the EU exist as well, and the EU’s LIFE+ scheme provide important financial incentives for connectivity. This, however, is largely due to national policy initiatives, and based upon national law instruments. At the EU level, there seems to be a slow movement towards accepting that connectivity measures are legally required by the current texts of the Birds and Habitats Directives. The Alto Sil judgment of the EU Court of Justice, as well as a range of policy documents go into that direction. In my view, however, there is much to say for more explicit regulating connectivity (and restoration) requirements in binding legal instruments, such as the Habitats Directive, as these instruments are rapidly getting outdated, caught up by climate change and by large scale landscape fragmentation in Europe.