European Community Directives

European Community Directives are usually implemented by Member States through national legislation. The most important of these directives for wildlife are listed below.

Table 2: European Community Directives


Directive Description
Council Directive 79/409/EEC as amended on the Conservation of Wild Birds 1979 (the EC codified version Birds Directive 2009/147/EC) Click here The Birds Directive is part implementation of the Bern Convention. Member states are required to provide general protection to all wild birds. This is implemented through the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 in the UK and, in effect, by the Wildlife Act 1976 in Ireland. The Directive also requires the designation of protected sites for rare or vulnerable species and migratory species of bird to form a European network of protected sites.
Council Directive 85/337/EEC on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment 1985, as amended in 1997 (Council Directive 97/11/EC), 2003 (2003/35/EC) and 2009 (2009/31/EC), codified in 2011 (2011/92/EU) and amended again in 2014 (2014/52/EU) (the EIA directive) Click here Member states are required to assess the environmental effects of public and private developments and other projects which are likely to have significant effects on the environment before consent is given. The assessment must include the significant effects on biodiversity, with particular reference to the species and habitats protected under the Birds and Habitats Directives. The 2011 version is implemented through various pieces of legislation including the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England & Wales) Regulations 2011, the Town and Country Planning (EIA) (Scotland) Regs. 2011; The Planning (EIA) Regs. 2012 (Northern Ireland), as amended and the European Communities (Environmental Impact Assessment and Habitats) Regs. 2011 (Ireland). Legislation to take into account the 2014 amendment is required to be in force before 16th May 2017.
Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora 1992 (the Habitats Directive). Click here The Habitats Directive is part implementation of the Bern Convention (see above). Member States are required to implement legislation to designate a network of protected sites and maintain their ecological integrity. Certain species are also strictly protected through this Directive. In England and Wales, the Habitats Directive is implemented through the Conservation of Habitats & Species Regulations 2010; in Scotland, through a combination of the Habitat Regs. 2010 (in relation to resolved matters) and the 1994 Regs.; in Northern Ireland through the Conservation (Natural Habitats & c.) Regs. (Northern Ireland) 1995 (as amended); and in Ireland by the European Communities (Birds and Natural Habitats) Regulations 2011.
Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework for the Community Action in the field of Water Policy 2000 (the Water Framework Directive) Click here Member states must implement legislation to designate, monitor and maintain or improve the ecological status of river basins and coastal waters. Includes impact assessments, management plans and pollution control measures. The Water Framework Directive is implemented through The Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) (England and Wales) Regulations 2003, the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003 and The Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) Regulations (N. Ireland) 2003 and, in Ireland, by the European Communities (Water Policy) Regulations, 2003.
Directive 2004/35/EC on environmental liability with regard to the prevention and remediation of environmental damage 2004 (the Environmental Liability Directive) Click here This directive seeks to achieve the prevention and remediation of environmental damage: specifically, damage to habitats and species protected by EC law, and other habitats and species designated by member states, damage to water resources, and land contamination which presents a threat to human health. This is implemented by the Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) (England) Regulations 2009; the Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) (Wales) Regulations 2009; the Environmental Liability (Scotland) Regulations 2009; the Environmental Liability (Prevention and Remediation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2009; and, in Ireland, by the European Communities (Environmental Liability) Regulations 2008.
Directive 2008/56/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008 establishing a framework for community action in the field of marine environmental policy (the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD)) Click here This directive aims to achieve good environmental status for Europe’s seas by the year 2020. Each member state will need to develop a marine strategy which aims to protect and preserve the marine environment, prevent its deterioration or, where practicable, restore marine ecosystems in areas where they have been adversely affected. Each member state also needs to phase out pollution so as to ensure that there are no significant negative impacts on or risks to marine biodiversity, marine ecosystems, human health or legitimate uses of the sea. The MSFD is implemented in the UK by the Marine Strategy Regulations 2010 and in Ireland by the European Communities (Marine Strategy Framework) Regulations 2011.

The European Commission has decided to review the Birds and Habitats Directives. The review is expected to be published in early 2016 and will examine whether the Directives are fit for purpose. It could result in further revisions to these Directives, including merging them together.

See European Commission, Fitness Check of EU Nature Legislation for further details.

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