Twenty years after adopting the Habitats Directive, the EU has the largest coordinated network (Natura 2000) of protected areas in the world. However, only 17% of the species and habitats protected actually enjoy the favourable conservation status required by the Directive.
The Habitats Directive and the older Birds Directive aim to safeguard species of plants and animals and their natural habitats, but implementation of the Habitats Directive has faced obstacles. The designation of protected areas by Member States has been delayed, prompting the Commission to initiate infringement proceedings. Moreover, the management of many protected sites is still inadequate.
The Court of Justice of the EU has been required to play a role in clarifying the interpretation of the Directives.
In order to improve the protection of biodiversity, the European Commission has adopted a wider biodiversity strategy which aims to strengthen the Habitats Directive by improving monitoring and reporting, sharing of knowledge, and raising awareness. Funding through the LIFE programme and other funds is to be increased, and biodiversity objectives are to be integrated in other EU policies. The EP supports the strategy, calling for improved implementation and increased funding.