Commission restates habitats threat to funding

Barnier writes to member states demanding commitment to respect Natura 2000 network

The European Commission is to send its strongest warning yet to EU member states that they will not receive structural funds for infrastructure projects if they cannot guarantee that the projected Natura 2000 network of protected wildlife sites will be unaffected (ENDS Daily 20 January).

EU regional policy commissioner Michel Barnier is writing to all countries to tell them to commit to protecting the network and supplying a satisfactory list of sites to be protected "as soon as possible." The Commission will process the relevant funding applications only after this commitment is made, he will tell them.

Without the list of sites the Commission says it has no way of knowing whether projects up for funding will break rules governing development in protected areas. In a statement today, it said member states should send acceptable lists "as quickly as possible" and give "a clear and irrevocable guarantee" not to allow sites to be protected under Natura 2000 to "deteriorate" because of EU-funded developments. "If a member state doesn't make a commitment, the Commission would have to hold back the money," a source said.

The Commission has taken legal action against most of the EU's member states over failure to properly designate enough territory for inclusion in the network, a task which should have been completed in 1995. It has not received full lists of proposed sites from Germany (ENDS Daily 11 February), Ireland and Portugal, while it considers unacceptable those sent by Belgium, Sweden, Finland, France, Austria, the Netherlands and the UK.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111, and see press release dated 16/3/00 on Rapid.

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