On 18 September and 18 and 19 October Eurosite staff attended meetings of the Co-ordination Group for Biodiversity and Nature and the European Habitats Forum (EHF) in Brussels. Main subjects involved the global and EU process around the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Post 2020 Biodiversity Strategy, the follow-up of the EU Action Plan for nature, people and the economy, the Next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and the LIFE Programme, the CAP, and the EU Pollinators Initiative.

CBD & Post 2020 Biodiversity Strategy
The upcoming COP in November will be important for the discussions on the Post 2020 Biodiversity Strategy. During the next COP, it is likely that the process on the Post-2020 framework will be discussed, rather than the content. It was highlighted that the UN is likely to declare the next decade the ‘Decade of Ecological Restoration’, a topic that will also be prominent in EU Post-2020 decisions. Within the European Habitats Forum, Eurosite has indicated its interest in remaining closely involved in the post-2020 discussions.

Birds and Habitats Directives implementation: follow-up of the EU Action Plan for nature, people and the economy
Recently, two guidance documents on Articles 6(3) and 6(4) of the Habitats Directive and on the strict protection of species of Community interest under the Habitats Directive have been circulated as drafts. An EHF representative attended the ad-hoc meeting on the revision of these guidance documents on 29 October. The documents will be published before the end of the year. Additionally, the EC’s Nature Protection Unit is currently working to integrate the many comments received on the guidance for integrating ecosystem services and decision making and on EU level Green Infrastructure projects. A draft will be put out for consultation, but the timing is not yet certain. Lastly, the EHF asked about the action in the Action Plan related to continued support for platforms promoting the co-existence with large carnivores, and also the possibility of setting up more regional platforms. The Commission informed the meeting participants on a plenary meeting of the EU Platform on Coexistence between People and Large Carnivores that took place in May. All presentations and documents are available online on the Platform’s web page.

Next Multiannual Financial Framework and the LIFE Programme
Member States are engaging with the process of the Prioritised Action Framework (PAF) and understand the level of priority this process should be given, according to the European Commission. A PAF is a planning tool which sets out how member states of the European Union propose to manage their Natura 2000 sites, and how these management activities are to be funded. The EC plans to organise seminars in Member States in order to explain the financial possibilities for nature and biodiversity under the new MFF. PAFs will be the programmes that will be implemented under LIFE’s strategic nature projects. Financing seminars have already started in Member States. Strategic nature projects are a new additional format that should mainstream nature and biodiversity in other sectors.

Common Agricultural Policy and the EU Pollinators Initiative
Member States are pushing for more subsidiarity, and more voluntary items in relation to the environment rather than conditionality. The EHF reflected on how the new CAP subsidiarity is a big issue for ensuring that objectives for nature will be achieved, and how with the proposed flexibility the ‘Common’ within the Common Agricultural Policy seems to disappear. During the EHF’s meeting with the European Commission, special attention was paid to degraded peatlands: it was mentioned that there is a need for political will for re-wetting agricultural land. However, this implies a change of land use making these areas no longer considered eligible for direct payments, which disincentivizes land owners. The European Commission will publish a strategy on climate action proposing more ambitious targets and it will be attempted to create more prominence to the peatlands issue. Currently, land strategies for climate change mitigation are not that high on DG CLIMA’s radar. There could be a role for our community to play in raising the profile of this issue.

With regards to the pollinators a debate is ongoing concerning the sustainable use of pesticides, and whether the Member States need to look deeper into sub-lethal effects. The Pollinators Initiative was welcomed, and the EHF expressed a concern regarding ‘controlled pollination’ in one of the amendments proposed. It is necessary to prevent a system where corporate interests align against wild pollinators. Lastly, 20 May 2019 will be World Bee Day.