Official Journal of the European Union

CE 33/189

(2004/C 33 E/192)


by Michl Ebner (PPE-DE) to the Commission

(2 June 2003)

Subject:   Natura 2000

In the view of the Commission, can the rigid policy of the Flemish government on Natura 2000 areas situated in the VEN (Flemish Environmental Network) be reconciled with the provisions of the Natura 2000 directive?

The Flemish policy is based on a whole series of orders and prohibitions, with inadequate and inappropriate compensation, which furthermore take no account of socio-economic factors.

The existence of two parallel network structures in Flanders — one Flemish and one European — causes a great deal of unnecessary confusion and complication. In practice it seems that an excessively large part is incorporated in the VEN, the IVON (Integraal Verwevings- en Ondersteunend Netwerk, Integrated Interrelation and Support Network) or the nature association areas. In implementing the Nature Decree of late 1997 the Flemish government therefore took care to ensure that the two types of area overlapped as much as possible. Is it sensible for two different types of policy to be implemented in areas where there are overlaps?

The result is that there is confusion among the Flemish public and great dissatisfaction among the rural population, who associate Natura 2000 with the patronising policy of the Flemish government in the VEN.

What is the Commission's view of the compatibility of the Flemish policy on environmental networks with the Natura 2000 directive?

Answer given by Mrs Wallström on behalf of the Commission

(2 July 2003)

Both Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (1) (‘Habitats Directive’), and Council Directive 79/409/EEC of 2 April 1979 on the conservation of wild birds (2) (‘Birds Directive’) aim at ensuring the conservation of natural habitats and species at European level. The creation of ‘Natura 2000’, a coherent European ecological network of special areas of conservation, is an important tool to achieve this objective.

National or regional networks of protected areas such as the Flemish Environmental Network represent important complements to the European ‘Natura 2000’ network, as they allow to integrate more local and regional aspects of nature conservation. Neither the ‘Habitats Directive’ nor the ‘Birds Directive’ foresee any restrictions as to Member States introducing stricter protective measures than those provided for under these Directives.

The provisions of the Habitats Directive clearly make Member States responsible for the management of Natura 2000 sites. The responsibility for the management of regional and national networks is a fortiori a matter of national or regional competence.

(1)  OJ L 206, 22.7.1992.

(2)  OJ L 103, 25.4.1979.