Official Journal of the European Union

CE 78/203

(2004/C 78 E/0207)


by Jean-Louis Bernié (EDD) to the Commission

(6 October 2003)

Subject:   Marais Breton site — September 2003

In his letter of 25 August 2003, addressed to Mr Jean-Louis Bernié, Senator Oudin (Vendée/France) stated:


The step taken by France (la démarche de la France) being contractual, there is no obligation on local authorities to apply the recommended management measures.

In the light of the entire European legal arsenal, can the Commission confirm to me that a Member State may decide, that in the absence of financial compensation (e.g. for owners, farmers, fishermen, hunters or other ‘users’ of nature) there is no obligation incumbent on local authorities in Natura 2000 sites?

Does the Commission believe that a contractual policy can, by itself, guarantee the conservation of the Natura 2000 sites?

Answer given by Mrs Wallström on behalf of the Commission

(19 November 2003)

To answer the Honourable Member's first question, Article 6 of Directive 92/43/EEC (1) applies. This requires Member States to establish the necessary conservation measures for special conservation areas. They must also take appropriate measures to avoid the deterioration of natural habitats and the habitats of species in these areas. This may involve requiring local authorities to apply the recommended management measures, whether or not there is financial compensation.

In reply to the Honourable Member's second question on the contractual policy applicable to the management of Natura 2000 sites, the Commission does not believe that such a policy can, by itself, guarantee the protection and conservation of the sites.

Article 6(1) of Directive 92/43/EEC provides for positive measures for all special conservation areas, in order to achieve the Directive's general objective, which is to maintain or restore at a favourable conservation status natural habitats and species of wild fauna and flora of Community interest. These conservation measures must meet the ecological requirements of the Annex I natural habitats and Annex II species present on the sites. They can take two forms: appropriate statutory, administrative or contractual measures, or if need be, appropriate management plans.

The choice between statutory, administrative or contractual measures and even the choice of management plans is the responsibility of the Member States. These arrangements comply with the principle of subsidiarity. The Member States must however choose at least one of the three categories: statutory, administrative or contractual measures. The Member States are free to use, on a Natura 2000 site, a single category of measures (e.g. contractual measures), or combined measures (e.g. a combination of statutory and contractual measures, depending on the conservation problems affecting the Annex I natural habitats and the Annex II species present on the sites). In addition to the compulsory measures chosen, the Member States may also define and implement management plans.

However, whatever type of measures the Member States choose, they must comply with the general objectives of the Directive. If a Member State chooses contractual measures, it is still required to establish, on a permanent basis, conservation measures which meet the ecological requirements of Annex I natural habitats and Annex II species present on the sites, and it must still comply with the Directive's general conservation objective.

In addition to the general conservation measures the Member States must establish for special conservation areas under Article 6(1) of the Directive, the requirements of Article 6(2), (3) and (4) also apply. These provide for preventive measures to avoid deterioration, disturbance and adverse effects on Natura 2000 sites.

(1)  Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora, OJ L 206, 22.7.1992.