Nature and biodiversity underpin life on Earth; however, ecosystems are in decline in the EU as well as globally, putting the ‘services’ they provide us with – from clean air to flood protection – at risk. The EU Birds and Habitats Directives (together called the ‘Nature Directives’) protect habitats and species in Europe. The EU’s Biodiversity Strategy goes further and aims to halt the ongoing loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in Europe and supports the EU’s global commitments for biodiversity protection.

Milieu has in-depth knowledge of the Nature Directives and their implementation, as we prepared the background study for the European Commission’s Fitness Check of this legislation. In other work, we have assessed the financial aspects of biodiversity conservation in the EU, including public investment funding options, and we have carried out analytical work on natural capital accounting. Moreover, we have provided EU institutions with legal support on biodiversity and natural resources.

The Zoos Directive (1999/22/EC) seeks to strengthen the work of Europe’s zoos for biodiversity conservation, research and awareness-raising.

Under this project, Milieu and its partners are organising forums for the exchange of knowledge among Europe’s zoos as well as national authorities, providing training and promoting peer-to-peer learning among them.

The EU supports the global targets of halting and reversing global forest, yet some EU policies can be linked to deforestation: for example, European imports of certain agricultural committees and raw materials may indirectly contribute to deforestation, while EU policies may not provide adequate safeguards. In some cases, policies to support development may indirectly lead to deforestation.

The study investigated possible negative impacts of EU sectorial policies on tropical forests – notably policies on development cooperation, infrastructure, agriculture, and trade – and provided recommendations for addressing these impacts.

These two directives, also called the Nature Directives, form the backbone of the EU’s legislation for nature conservation.

Milieu led this major review of the two Directives, carrying out extensive desk research and interviews. Milieu also organised an EU-wide survey, national workshops and a major policy conference. Our study identified key strengths and weaknesses and thus supported the European Commission in preparing its Fitness Check and in identifying recommendations to improve implementation of this key legislation.