The plan consists of 15 actions, to be carried out between now and 2019, focusing on following 4 priority areas:
- Improving guidance and knowledge and ensuring better coherence with broader socioeconomic objectives
- Building political ownership and strengthening compliance
- Strengthening investment in Natura 2000 and improving use of EU funding
- Better communication and outreach, engaging citizens, stakeholders and communities
CEPF sees a clear need to better involve forest and landowners into the implementation process and this has been recognised to some extent in single measures of the Action Plan, which is a welcomed first step to address the implementation challenges of the Nature directives.
The European Commission plans among others to support Member States through bilateral meetings, encouraging Member States to actively involve all relevant stakeholders at an early stage in the process of designation of sites and preparation and implementation of the necessary conservation measures. Another action foresees bilateral meetings under the new Environmental Implementation Review process between the Commission and national and regional authorities to develop roadmaps to improve implementation and consult with landowners and other stakeholders on implementation challenges. However, from CEPF’s standpoint drawing up these actions on the involvement of landowners will not be enough to better implement the EU Nature Directives. Implementation of these actions need to be ensured and forest owners have to be actively involved in the processes, acknowledging the special role of forest and landowners related to a better and successful implementation and management of the Natura 2000 network.
Regarding funding, the Fitness Check identified funding shortages as a key obstacle to implementation. However, the Action Plan has from CEPF’s point of view not evolved proper measures to tackle these shortages and to deliver an adequate monetary investment in the Natura 2000 network of protected sites, including adequate compensation for all measures going beyond existing national forestry requirements. The Action Plan aims at strengthening investments mainly through supporting Member States to improve their multiannual financial planning for Natura 2000, updating their Prioritised Action Frameworks (PAFs) and increasing the LIFE budget by 10%. Beyond that the Commission also plans to carry out evaluations of the impact of the CAP on biodiversity, including the use of the Natura 2000 measure to compensate beneficiaries for additional costs and income forgone. Furthermore, the Commission will assess existing experience on result-based payment schemes and call on Member States to support training and awareness raising for forest owners on the measures implementing the Nature Directives.
Based on the findings of the Fitness Check, the Action Plan was prepared by a project team of 10 Commissioners, chaired by Vice-President Timmermans and Vice-President Katainen, and also involving the Committee of the Regions, given the key role that regional and local authorities play in the Directives' implementation.
More information about the Action Plan can be found on Commission’s website.