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Worldwide praise to EU for protecting birds


03 Apr 2009


Health & Consumers

- Commissioner Dimas at BirdLife event celebrating 30th anniversary of EU Birds Directive –

- however, dramatic decline of many migratory birds continues -

Brussels 2 April 2009 – Today, efforts to conserve Europe’s threatened natural heritage received much-needed support from high-level decision makers in Brussels. On the occasion of a BirdLife International [1] event celebrating the 30th anniversary of the EU Birds Directive [2], the Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Stavros Dimas expressed the need to strengthen efforts in halting the decline of species and habitats (biodiversity), building on existing nature legislation such as the Natura 2000 network of protected areas [3].

“It is […] self-evident that protecting birds needs effective international cooperation and it was therefore no coincidence that the Wild Birds Directive was the first piece of EU Environmental legislation dedicated to nature conservation.” the Commissioner stated at the event.

In a Commission press release Commissioner Dimas said on this occasion “The Birds Directive is one of the great success stories of EU environmental policy.” Referring to discussions on the EU’s post 2010 biodiversity policy he stressed: “The Birds Directive is as relevant today as it was 30 years ago and has a key role to play in delivering our biodiversity policy for many years to come.” [4]

On behalf of the EU Presidency, Czech Deputy Environment Minister, Mr. František Pelc, congratulated Europeans for 30 years of bird protection.

On a video message, African conservationists from Burkina Faso conveyed their gratitude to the EU for protecting African birds during their summer stay in Europe. Mr. Hamidou Mamoudou, Director of SSG Oursi, which is a local group of the BirdLife Partner in Burkina Faso said “we wished we could have a Birds Directive too”.

At the event, BirdLife launched its new campaign for the protection of migratory birds, “Born to Travel”, the BirdLife Flyways Campaign [5]. The campaign will bring the wonder of bird migration closer to people, and link up efforts to protect birds in Africa, Middle East and Europe.

Science shows that the Birds Directive already helped many birds to recover [6]. However, BirdLife data also demonstrate that more than 40% of long-distance migratory bird species have declined in the last three decades and unfortunately are continuing to decline. These include both common and rare species like the Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos and the Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus, that pass between Africa, the Middle East and Europe every spring and autumn. The new BirdLife campaign will try to raise awareness for this, and also help bird species, that often mistakenly are considered widespread, but are in trouble, such as the Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica, the Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus and the European Turtle-dove Streptopelia turtur.

BirdLife welcomed the strong statements the Commissioner gave in favour of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. Misconceptions and attacks from the side of some stakeholders and politicians have to be overcome: Natura 2000 sites are not fenced-off areas, but form “living landscapes” aiming to reconcile nature protection and economic development. [7]

Dr. Clairie Papazoglou, Regional Director of the European Division of BirdLife International, concluded: “There are not separate crises, but one big crisis, we have to overcome – economy, climate and biodiversity are inseparably linked. We need a sustainable rescue plan for our planet. 2010 should be the year of turning the tide for the diversity of life.”


Konstantin Kreiser, EU Policy Manager, BirdLife European Division, Brussels,, +32 2 280 08 30

Herlinde Herpoel, Media & Communication Manager, BirdLife European Division, Brussels,, +32 494 542 844

Notes for the editor
• BirdLife - weblink to press release (available from 03/04/09 onwards):

• Congratulation messages from VIPs from around Europe at:

[1] BirdLife International is a global alliance of national conservation NGOs working in more than 100 countries and territories that, together, are the leading authority on the status of birds, their habitats and the issues and problems affecting them.
BirdLife International has supported the EU Birds Directive and its implementation since the very beginning more than 30 years ago. In this context BirdLife is a recognized authority for reference data on sites (Important Bird Area inventories) and species.

[2] Council Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds. See also European Commission website at

[3] Natura 2000 is a network of priority sites for nature conservation, covering currently almost a fifth of the EU’s territory. EU Member States are implementing it following the framework provided by the so-called Birds and Habitats Directives. Natura 2000 sites are not fenced-off areas - on the contrary, sustainable and nature-friendly land-use is encouraged in these sites. More information on Natura 2000 at and from the European Commission at:

[4] Commissioner Dimas gave a speech at the BirdLife event in the Representation of Lower Saxony in Brussels on 2 April 2009 entitled: ‘Successes, challenges and visions – the EU Birds Directive 30 years after its adoption’. Pictures of the event will be available for download on the BirdLife International website in the morning of 03/04/2009 at

Quote from Commission Press Release (31/3) on the 30th anniversary of the Birds Directive (

[5] Visit the website and join our campaign at:
Follow us on Twitter @ BornToTravel

[6] The fact that the EU nature legislation works, was demonstrated in 2007 by an analysis published in the renowned journal ‘SCIENCE’. This study confirmed that bird species, especially protected by the EU Birds Directive, are better off than others, the Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia, White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla and Spanish Imperial Eagle Aquila adalberti are prominent examples of this success.
Paul F. Donald, Fiona J. Sanderson, Ian J. Burfield, Stijn M. Bierman, Richard D. Gregory, Zoltan Waliczky (2007) International Conservation Policy Delivers Benefits for Birds in Europe. SCIENCE, 10 August 2007, Vol. 317, no. 5839, pp. 810-813.
BirdLife press release 10/08/2007:

[7] With the Birds and Habitats Directives, and the Natura 2000 network of protected areas, the EU has excellent legislation in place to reconcile the needs of nature conservation with those of human well-being and economic development. Nevertheless, as Commissioner Dimas stated in his speech, the EU is very likely to miss its 2010 target of halting the loss of biodiversity. Therefore more efforts are needed, not only in implementing and financing better the EU Nature Directives, but also in making EU land-use policies more biodiversity friendly, in particular the EU Common Agricultural Policy. Long-term BirdLife data shows that farmland birds are another severely depleted group of birds, suffering heavily from the fact that the EU gives wrong incentives for land-users.

BirdLife International
European Division
Avenue de la Toison d’Or 67
B- 1060 Brussels


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