There have been repeated calls from lobbies of hunters and farmers to reduce protection for some protected species, and large carnivores in particular. Such calls want the challenges posed by coexisting with these animals to be tackled by an increase in hunting, and lowered protection.
Large carnivores like wolves and bears are endangered species according to the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC, which is the first of the two Directives that protect European biodiversity. Adopted in 1992, the Habitats Directive protects certain species from exploitation and being removed from the wild. It lists over a thousand species of plants and animals as designated for various levels of protection.
The second is the Birds Directive 2009/147/EC, a legislation to protect European wild birds, which was adopted in 2009. It amended initial legislation laid down in the 1970s under Directive 79/409/EEC. As a result of the Directive, Special Protection Areas were developed for the protection and survival of designated species. Other protection levels were clarified, including the bird species that can be hunted and when, and the sustainable management of species. Guidance has also been issued for hunting under the Directive.
PROTECTED SPECIES AT 'GOOD CONSERVATION' LEVELS
DUE TO INTENSIFICATION OF AGRICULTURE
OF THE FINANCIAL NEEDS OF NATURA 2000 HAVE BEEN MADE AVAILABLE
EUROPEAN CITIZENS ‘TOTALLY AGREE’ THAT IT IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO LOOK AFTER NATURE
WHAT DOES THE PUBLIC THINK?
The outcomes of an opinion poll commissioned by Eurogroup for Animals among adults across six EU countries indicate that EU citizens show overall a high level of support for wolf protection, particularly in Poland, Spain and Italy, and a great level of awareness of the benefits of wolves to their local ecosystem.
The majority of adults say that the killing of wolves is rarely or never acceptable in any tested circumstances, even when they have attacked farm animals (55%), or to control their population size (55%). However, some sectors continue to urge the European Commission to provide more flexibility to Member States in the management of large carnivore populations.
POLICY - CURRENT STATE OF PLAY
The European Commission’s Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT), which reviewed the Directives in 2016, determined that they were relevant and appropriate, but that there were some issues with their implementation and enforcement. The study revealed that EU co-funding for Natura 2000, a network of sites which protect species, only covered up to a maximum of 19% of financial needs, and that Member States could not make up for the shortfall.
Following the fitness review, the EU developed an Action Plan for Nature, People and the Economy to improve the implementation and enforcement of the Directives. The EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2030 requests Member States to not deteriorate the conservation trends and status of protected habitats and species, like large carnivore
In 2019 the Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed the strict protection of the wolf in Europe, saying that hunting permits should be delivered only in exceptional cases, and as a very last resort after non-lethal measures have been adequately implemented and have failed.