The Birds Directive (2009/147/EG) of 30 November 2009 concerning the conservation of bird population and the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) of 21 May 1992 concerning the conservation of the natural habitats and of the wild flora and fauna form the cornerstone of European biodiversity policy.
Birds Directive defines the guidelines at European level for the protection and the management of the bird species living in the wild, in the first place with respect to the human activities (hunting, disturbance etc.). By approving the Birds Directive in 1978, the European Community gave effect to the implementation of two conventions of the "Council of Europe": the Bern Convention and the Bonn Convention.
Under the Birds Directive, the European member states must ensure, among others, that:
• the populations of the bird species living in the wild remain conserved (Art. 2) and that a number of measures are taken for that purpose (Art. 3);
• special protection zones ("Birds Directive areas") are established for rare and endangered species of birds living in the wild, listed in appendix 1 to the Birds Directive and for the migratory species that regularly occur in the concerned member state (Art. 4);
• a number of prohibitions are introduced to protect the bird species living in the wild (such as a ban on capture, on the disturbance of the nesting period or on keeping non-game species) (Art. 5);
• a number of restrictions with respect to the sale or keeping birds occurring in the wild (Art. 6);
• conditions are stipulated for hunting or killing of the bird species living in the wild (Art. 7, 8 and 9);
• the scientific research on the bird species living in the wild is made possible subject to certain conditions (Art. 10);
• the introduction of the bird species living in the wild is bound to a number of conditions (Art. 11).
The habitats directive is the second directive for the nature conservation in the European Union. As many other species are endangered in addition to the bird species living in the wild and the quality of natural and semi-natural habitats quickly recede, the European Union approved in 1992 the Habitats Directive with which they gave further effect to the implementation of the Bern Convention.
The Habitats Directive requires the Member States to do, among others, the following:
• keep or restore the protected habitats and species (of the annexes I and II) in an "favourable status of conservation";
• establish special areas of conservation ("Habitat Directive areas") for the species and habitats (annexes I and II). Along with the "birds directive areas", these "habitat Directive areas" form the Natura 2000 European network of the European protected areas (art. 3);
• implement the measures to preserve or to restore the species and habitats listed in the annexes I and II occurring in these special areas of conservation in an "favourable status of conservation" (art. 6);
• subject the plans and projects to an appropriate assessment in order to evaluate whether or not there is a significant effect on the integrity of the Natura 2000 site. Plans and projects are permitted if there are no alternatives and in the event of compelling reasons of public interest. In these events, compensatory measures must be taken to ensure the coherence of the Natura 2000 network (Art. 6);
• aim towards an adequate management of wild fauna and flora with reference to the spatial planning (Art. 10);
• monitor the protected habitats and species (Art. 11);
• apply a number of prohibitions for the protection of the species listed in annexes II and IV (for example, prohibition of deliberate killing of these species, deliberate disturbance during the breeding period, trading bans etc.) or when necessary, of the species from annex V (Art. 12 to 16).
More info on the Birds and Habitats Directives in the EU (management of Natura 2000 sites; guidelines for the plans and projects, funding of Natura 2000 etc.) can be found at the website of the European Commission.
The Marine Environment service is responsible for the follow-up of the species policy and for the management of marine protected areas, in particular the Natura 2000 sites. The Directorate Natural Environment (OD Nature) is entrusted with the monitoring.
You will find the information about the implementation of these directives in the Belgian part of the North Sea in the brochure “Belgian North Sea - Living water”.