C Explanatory memorandum by Mr Lotman,
1. The Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife
and Natural Habitats, or the Bern Convention (ETS No. 104), was
signed in Bern in 1979. It was the first comprehensive legal instrument
for pan-European nature conservation and remains the keystone treaty
for protection of biodiversity within the Council of Europe framework.
2. There are at present 50 contracting parties to the convention:
all the Council of Europe member states except San Marino and the
Russian Federation, four African countries – Burkina Faso, Morocco,
Senegal and Tunisia – and the European Union. Both Russia and San
Marino, however, participate in the work of the convention as observers,
as do the Holy See, Belarus, Algeria and Cape Verde.
3. The Bern Convention was opened for signature on 19 September
1979. Initial signatory states to the convention were Austria, Belgium,
Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg,
the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey
and the United Kingdom. The European Union (EC at the time) was
also among the initial parties to the convention. The convention
entered into force upon reaching the condition of five ratifications
on 1 June 1982. Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands,
Portugal, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the European Union
had all ratified the convention by that date.
2 Institutional and legal background –
the Bern Convention and other international activities for biodiversity
4. An understanding of the need for international co-operation
in the field of nature conservation started to emerge early in the
20th century. The two world wars, however, made effective co-operation
virtually impossible until the latter part of the 1940s when finally
the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (formerly
IUPN) was founded in 1948. The same applies for pan-European political
co-operation in general, where historic roots are even deeper, but
the first real breakthrough came in 1949 with the creation of the
Council of Europe. The two bodies signed an agreement in 1962 thus
recognising the need for pan-European activities in nature conservation.
This agreement was recently replaced by the memorandum of understanding
signed in January 2010. The Council of Europe’s activities in the
field of environment and nature conservation have of course not
been limited to co-operation with the IUCN – several resolutions
and recommendations have been adopted by the Committee of Ministers,
the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional
Authorities over the years. The joint declaration by the Assembly,
the Congress and the Conference of the International NGOs “Working
together for biodiversity, protection of natural areas and the fight
against climate change” signed on Biodiversity Day, 28 April 2010,
is one of the most recent developments in the field.
5. Mounting pressures on biological diversity gradually led to
an understanding of the need for binding international treaties
to protect nature. Several of these were signed in the seventies,
introducing a new stage of international co-operation for nature
conservation. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance
was signed in 1971. It is global in scope but is limited to one
– though broad and extremely important – group of habitats. The
next important step was taken when the Washington Convention on
trade in endangered species was signed in 1973. Although global
in geographical scope and covering all fauna and flora, it is however
limited to combating just one driver of biodiversity loss – unsustainable
international trade. The year 1979 brought another crucial global
treaty: the Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species
of Wild Animals.
6. Although global in scope and covering important subject matter,
these treaties do not provide comprehensive coverage of the threats
to European biodiversity. The need for a treaty covering a wide
variety of species and habitats, and addressing the majority of
known threats to these was still clear. The time was apparently
not ripe for a global treaty of this kind, but it was possible to
adopt one of sufficiently wide geographical coverage in the framework
of the Council of Europe. The Bern Convention was thus born. It
took more than twelve years for a global treaty of even more comprehensive
coverage to emerge – when the Convention on Biological Diversity
(the Biodiversity Convention) was signed at the Earth Summit in
Rio in 1992. However, the Biodiversity Convention lacks annexes
listing the protected species – which, given its global scope, would
indeed be a formidable task – and some of the other mechanisms present
in the Bern Convention. The latter thus still remains a valid tool
in European nature conservation.
7. An overview of the general context would be incomplete without
mentioning the European Union’s two nature directives. Directive
79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds (the Birds Directive)
was adopted the same year as the Bern Convention, 1979, and Directive
92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna
and flora (the Habitats Directive) was adopted in 1992. Since the
European Union is also a party to the Bern Convention – and indeed
these two directives are regarded as the way of implementation of
the convention by the European Union – a comparative table on the
relation between these three instruments is presented in Appendix
1 to this report.
3 Key provisions of the Bern Convention
8. Protection of habitats includes measures to conserve
the habitats of flora and fauna, especially the species listed in
Appendices I and II, and the conservation of endangered natural
habitats, protection of important areas for the migratory species
specified in Appendices II and III, and international efforts for
the protection of the habitats in frontier areas (Article 4).
9. The strict protection of wild flora species listed in Appendix
I include prohibition of deliberate picking, collecting, cutting
or uprooting and possession or sale (Article 5).
10. The strict protection of wild fauna species listed in Appendix
II includes prohibition of capture, keeping and killing, damage
to breeding or resting sites, significant disturbance, particularly
during the sensitive periods, destruction, taking or keeping of
eggs and prohibition of trade where needed (Article 6).
11. The protection by regulating exploitation of fauna listed
in Appendix III includes closed seasons, temporary or local prohibition
of exploitation and regulation of trade in order to keep the populations
at safe levels (Article 7).
12. The capture and killing methods are regulated in the convention
for those species that are listed in Appendix III (and in exceptional
cases when these activities are allowed for Appendix II species
– see next paragraph – also for these). The use of indiscriminate
means or those capable of damaging populations is prohibited. It
is also stated that “in particular” the means of capture and killing
listed in Appendix IV must be prohibited (Article 8).
13. Exceptions from protection requirements are allowed if there
is no other satisfactory solution and these would not threaten the
survival of the population concerned. The contracting parties have
to report every two years on the exceptions made (Article 9).
14. In addition, special provisions for migratory species such
as the obligations of international co-operation are included (Article
15. Reintroduction of endangered species based on available experience
is encouraged, while the introduction of non-native species has
to be “strictly controlled” (Article 11.2).
16. Contracting parties may adopt stricter measures than those
required by the convention but have to inform the Standing Committee
of the species not included in Appendices I and II that are granted
full protection (Article 12).
4 Implementation of the convention
17. Implementation of the convention by the contracting
parties is co-ordinated by the Standing Committee, the highest body
and the focal point of communication of the convention (Articles
13, 14 and 15). The Standing Committee is assisted by the secretariat
and groups of experts. It adopts resolutions and recommendations and
can open case files in cases of suspected non-compliance with the
convention by a contracting party.
4.1 Implementation of Article 4 – protection of habitats
4.1.1 Establishing protected area networks
The rules laid down in Article 4 of the convention
relating to the establishment of protected areas are relatively
general in nature. It has therefore been necessary for the Standing
Committee to provide the following additional guidance on this matter:
- Resolution No. 3 (1996) concerning
the setting up of a pan-European Ecological Network, establishes the
Emerald Network of Areas of Special Conservation Interest. It thus
clarifies a rather general reference to protected sites in the convention.
It also establishes the relevant expert group and invites observer
states to the convention to participate in the network.
- Resolution No. 4 (1996) lists in Annex I the habitat types
to be protected (since the convention itself does not have an appendix
listing such habitat types). This is complementary to the Habitats
Directive that lists habitats to be protected within Natura 2000
in its Annex I. It is important to note, however, that the habitat
lists in Annex I to Resolution No. 4 and Annex I of the Habitats
Directive are not identical.
- Resolution No. 5 (1998) concerning the rules for the Network
of Areas of Special Conservation Interest (Emerald Network) states, inter alia, that for European Union
member states the Natura 2000 sites form the Emerald Network. It
also establishes the procedure for depositing data regarding the
sites with the convention secretariat and the standard data form
for site information.
- Resolution No. 6 (1998) listing the species requiring
specific habitat conservation measures provides clarification of
the difference of species lists between the relevant appendices
to the convention and annexes to the directives, as species listed
in all of these documents are listed in the Appendix 1 to Resolution
No. 6 (1998).
19. These resolutions are supplemented (and in many cases actually
preceded) by numerous recommendations regarding protection of habitats
and sites. The most important of these is Recommendation No. 16
(1989). Additional guidance on the principles of the procedure for
examining and approving Emerald sites has been submitted to the
convention secretariat by the relevant group of experts, but has
not yet been adopted by the Standing Committee.
20. Natura 2000 and Emerald data forms and software were developed
in a co-ordinated manner and thus have a similar structure. This
gives a degree of compatibility between the networks. However, different
habitat and species lists may create problems in the coherence of
the pan-European network. Co-operation between the European Commission,
the European Environmental Agency and the Standing Committee of
the Bern Convention is supposed to solve this problem. One of the
means to do so is co-ordinated interpretation of habitat types included
in the lists. To some extent this has been achieved in the latest
versions of the Interpretation Manuals of European Union Habitats
for the networks, but further work is required.
21. It can be seen from Appendix 1 to this report that the provisions
of the Bern Convention regarding site designation have been incorporated
into the two European Union nature directives. The rules of site designation
specified in Article 4 of the Habitats Directive are actually stronger
than the ones in Article 4 of the Bern Convention. The European
Union also has stronger mechanisms of reporting and implementation:
the European Commission monitors the creation of the Natura 2000
Network and can react to non-compliance with the infringement procedure.
The creation of the Natura 2000 Network is followed by means of
the so-called Natura 2000 Barometer, which is available to the public.
Hence, it is only natural that the Standing Committee’s Resolution
No. 5 (1998) leaves implementation of the site protection objectives
by the European Union member states to Natura 2000.
22. In spite of this, problems still exist in European Union countries.
The Natura 2000 Network has still not been finalised. According
to the last Natura 2000 Barometer, the network can be assessed as
largely complete for less than half of the European Union member
states (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, France, Italy, Luxembourg,
the Netherlands and Poland for the Birds Directive, and Belgium,
Denmark, Germany, Italy and Netherlands for the Habitats Directive)
and incomplete for the rest. However, significant progress has been made
recently in several member states and there is now no state for
which the network would be assessed as notably insufficient.
23. The work in contracting parties outside the European Union
has been slower still. Creation of the Emerald Network is at a very
initial stage. Pilot projects have been carried out in the relevant
countries at different times. Most of the non-European Union contracting
parties have received some assistance in setting up the pilot projects,
the exceptions being Norway and Switzerland, which carried out the
pilot projects with their own resources, and Iceland. In the latter,
however, no data on Emerald-related activities is currently in the public
domain. A joint European Union-Council of Europe project for the
setting up of the Emerald network in seven central and eastern European
and Caucasus countries is currently under way. These projects have contributed
to the development of nature conservation networks in the countries
involved, but have produced only preliminary site list proposals.
At this stage there is no comprehensive assessment of the Emerald Network
similar to the Natura 2000 Barometer and in some states there is
little information on follow-up to the pilot projects. However,
an Emerald Barometer could possibly be adopted by the Standing Committee
in December 2010. In conclusion, it could be said that the current
coverage of the proposed Emerald network varies from just a few
sites in some countries to over 40% in Croatia (see Appendix 2).
24. Pilot projects have also been initiated for some of the African
contracting parties but there is no information about the proposed
25. Evaluation of the network is at a relatively early stage and
has been carried out for only certain countries, species and habitat
groups. It can be seen from the very preliminary survey above that
only a couple of countries have proposed a network that would cover
a significant proportion of their territories. It is also not clear
which of the Emerald pilot projects have resulted only in selecting
some of the sites already protected in relevant countries and which
have resulted in designation of new sites. For some countries the
habitat and species lists that form the basis of the site selection
are not entirely adequate.
26. Databases containing information concerning Emerald Network
sites are not available to the public, neither are full maps of
the network on a Europe-wide basis. As for Natura 2000, some data
can be found on the European Environmental Agency’s homepage. The
Common Database of Designated Areas by the same agency presents
only nationally designated sites at present.
4.1.2 Management of the protected areas
27. It is obvious that designating protected areas is
only a first step for conserving biodiversity; if a protected area
exists only on paper it is not much help. What really counts is
how site protection is actually carried out.
28. The protection rules laid down in Article 4 of the convention
are quite general. The rules of the Habitats Directive Article 6
are somewhat more specific. The European Union also has stronger
mechanisms for reporting and implementation: the European Commission
monitors the situation and can react to non-compliance with the
infringement procedure. The Commission has also issued guidance
on management of Natura 2000 sites, but this deals only with interpretation
of Article 6 of the Habitats Directive and does not go any further.
Guidance by the Standing Committee of the convention involves:
- Recommendation No. 16 (1989),
which provides – in addition to guidance on site selection – guidance on
site management, including legislative measures, financing, management
planning, boundary marking and monitoring;
- Recommendation No. 71 (1998), which provides guidance
to habitat protection and management by private or voluntary schemes,
including acquisition of land, conservation by private owners, legislative support
for private habitat conservation, promoting tax policies favouring
private conservation and involving the voluntary sector.
30. The above-mentioned recommendations are relatively general
and do not provide any advice related to habitat types or specific
management action. No guidance on management planning has been issued,
nor on the development of specific software to complement the software
used in site description.
31. No systematic overview of the situation of the habitats and
species in the protected areas on a pan-European basis could be
found by the rapporteur – either that of success stories or of failures.
Data on the European Diploma of Protected Areas can be regarded
as a sample of success stories. However, the diploma is not officially
linked to the Bern Convention, in spite of the connected objectives,
and indeed is older than the convention. Therefore the sites awarded
the diploma will not be reviewed in this report.
Data on case files and complaints can be used to get an overview
of problematic cases, where official complaints have been submitted
to the Standing Committee. In addition, some of the data on success
and failure in relation to Natura 2000 is available from the European
Commission’s DG Environment. At present, several site-related case-files
are kept open by the Standing Committee:
- Bulgaria: wind farms in Balchik and Kaliakra – Via Pontica.
The case concerns the building of wind farms on the Black Sea coast
on an important flyway. The Standing Committee has adopted a recommendation
regarding the case. Other international bodies involved include
the secretariat of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian
Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) and the European Commission. At present,
a significant part of the area is included in Natura 2000 and the
threat of new wind farms in the area has been significantly reduced.
- Cyprus: Akamas Peninsula. This case concerns plans for
tourist development with detrimental effects on an ecologically
valuable area with many rare plant and animal species. The site
is especially important for two species of marine turtles included
in Appendix I of the Bern Convention; both species are also included
in Appendices II and IV of the Habitats Directive. The Standing
Committee has adopted a recommendation regarding the case. The dispute
has been going on since 1996. In July 2010, the European Union announced
that the European Commission had recently received a complaint claiming insufficient
designation and protection of the Akamas Peninsula. In that context,
the Commission will assess the sufficiency of the designated site
as well as the measures implemented to safeguard its conservation
values, with a view to ensuring compliance with relevant provisions
under European Union nature legislation. The area is at present
partly included in Natura 2000, but whether this is sufficient for the
long-term protection of the whole site and the relevant species
is not clear.
- France: habitats for the survival of the common hamster
(Cricetus cricetus) in Alsace.
Insufficient measures aimed at ensuring the maintenance of the habitats
needed for the survival of the common hamster. The European Commission
brought the case before the European Court of Justice in June 2009.
- Ukraine: the project for a waterway in the Bystroe estuary
(Danube delta). The proposed waterway would go through valuable
nature area in the Danube delta that is also a biosphere reserve.
The Standing Committee has adopted a recommendation regarding the
case. Other international bodies involved in addition to the Standing
Committee are the European Commission, UNESCO, UNECE, UNEP, the International
Commission for the Protection of the Danube River and the relevant
bodies of the Aarhus, Espoo and Ramsar Conventions. The dispute
has been going on since 2004 and the situation remains unclear regarding
possible damage to the site by the project.
Ongoing site-related complaints include:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina: threats
to the Vjetrenica cave. The cave site, which is rich in biodiversity,
has been protected for a long time, but due to the recent turbulent
history continuity of the protection had been lost. Other international
actors include the IUCN. At present, there are developments that
could secure appropriate protection in the future.
- Italy: wind turbines in Alta Maremma. In an area containing
several protected sites and rich in species there is an illegal
wind park and a proposal to erect another (legal) one is under discussion.
There is no data regarding involvement of the European Commission
even though some of the species that might be impacted are protected
under the Birds and Habitats Directives. At present, it is hard
to assess the magnitude of the problem.
- Morocco: tourism development project in Saïdia affecting
the Moulouya wetland site. A major tourism development is proposed
in the Moulouya site, a “zone of biological and ecological interest”
and a Ramsar site. The authorities claim that the development would
not harm the site.
- France: black grouse (Tetrao
tetrix) in the Drôme and Isère
Sites where the existing Standing Committee recommendations
are being followed up: a development poses threats to the Fethiye
Bay in Turkey, a protected site and an important area for marine
turtles. Concerns were expressed by an NGO but no information has
been received from the authorities.
- Recommendation No. 144 (2009) of the Standing Committee,
on the wind park in Smøla (Norway) and other wind farm developments
- Recommendation No. 66 (1998) on the conservation status
of some nesting beaches for marine turtles in Turkey.
- Recommendation No. 98 (2002) on the project to build a
motorway through the Kresna Gorge (Bulgaria).
- Recommendation No.113 (2004) on military antenna in the
British Sovereign Base Area of Akrotiri (Cyprus).
35. There have been many more cases in the past. Some of them
have finally been solved in a favourable way while others have not.
For example, large dams were built in a valuable nature site in
Iceland in spite of the Standing Committee’s recommendation.
36. It can thus be said that many important sites in the contracting
parties are still not receiving adequate protection.
4.1.3 General issues of habitat diversity protection
not related to particular sites
37. Habitat loss is the major threat to European biodiversity
and it can only partly be solved by designation and adequate protection
of individual sites. In order to put a stop to the decline of biodiversity,
measures to avoid policies leading to loss of habitats on the wider
landscape scale are also necessary. This has been recognised by
the relevant guidance documents of the Standing Committee, the most
important of which is Recommendation No. 25 (1991) on the conservation
of natural areas outside protected areas proper.
38. Policies that need cross-checking against needs to protect
biological and landscape diversity include spatial planning, infrastructure
development, building, mining, agriculture and forestry, as well
as protection of the environment from pollution and climate change.
In the latter context especially, it is clear that even though protected
area networks would play a key role in making it possible for European
biodiversity to adapt to climate change, successful adaptation would
only be possible if sufficient habitat diversity were maintained
on a landscape scale, also outside the protected sites.
In relation to protection of European biodiversity from climate
change, the Standing Committee has adopted the following recommendations:
- Recommendation No. 122 (2006)
on the conservation of biological diversity in the context of climate change,
adopted on 30 November 2006, which proposes establishing a group
- Recommendation No. 135 (2008) on addressing the impacts
of climate change on biodiversity, adopted on 27 November 2008,
which, among other proposed measures, stresses the need to integrate protected
area networks within a high-quality landscape conservation approach
to provide permeability and connectivity to assist species adjust
their spatial distributions, through the provision of habitat “stepping
stones” and other tools;
- Recommendation No. 143 (2009) on further guidance for
Parties on biodiversity and climate change, adopted on 26 November
2009, which stresses, inter alia,
the importance of an ecosystem approach and the maintenance of large
networks of heterogeneous habitats.
40. The relevant group of experts has been established but otherwise
no comprehensive overview regarding implementation of these recommendations
has been found by the rapporteur. Given the fragmented nature of current
European landscapes, such implementation will clearly be a challenge.
41. Related to climate change is the impact of renewable energy
projects on habitats. While renewable energy development can help
to slow down man-made climate change, it can – if developed without
due consideration – seriously harm habitats. Recommendation No.
109 (2004) on minimising the adverse effects of wind power on wildlife
which endorses two relevant documents developed under the Bonn Convention,
has been adopted, as well as several site-specific recommendations.
Further guidance on wind farms and nature conservation was published
in October 2010 in co-operation with the European Commission. Guidance
is needed for other forms of renewable energy.
42. Energy-related infrastructure that can seriously harm biodiversity
and can make habitats deadly for birds also includes power lines.
Standing Committee Recommendation No. 110 (2004) on minimising the
adverse effects of above-ground electricity transmission facilities
(power lines) on birds was adopted on 3 December 2004. According
to a review by an NGO, little action has followed so far and there
is very little exchange of information even regarding the limited
43. Regarding agriculture, there is a big difference between European
Union and non-European Union contracting parties as the former are
under direct influence of the Common Agricultural Policy (while
the latter are affected only indirectly). The impact of the CAP
on biodiversity has been criticised in many publications, one of
the latest being “Through the green smokescreen – how is CAP cross
compliance delivering for biodiversity?” prepared by BirdLife International
in 2009. No similar overview of biodiversity impacts of agriculture
on the pan-European scale has been made available to the rapporteur.
The impact of forestry on biodiversity is also far from favourable
in spite of stable or increasing forest area, as found by an assessment
by the European Environment Agency. In relation to afforestation
of valuable open-landscape habitats, at least two cases are currently
afforestation of lowland habitats, especially wetlands of importance
for birds. In December 2002, the Standing Committee adopted Recommendation
No. 96 (2002), concerning the conservation of natural habitats and
wildlife, especially birds, in afforestation of lowland habitats
in Iceland. The recommendation lists seven specific recommendations
for implementation by the Government of Iceland.
- Ukraine: afforestation of steppe habitats. A complaint
by an NGO has been received by the secretariat.
45. So far the Standing Committee has not issued any generalised
recommendations on forestry or afforestation issues.
4.1.4 Selected issues related to protecting habitats
of particular taxa
46. Open cases include: France – habitats of the common
hamster in Alsace (case file open) and habitats of the European
green toad in Alsace (a possible case file) and Sweden – habitats
of the natterjack toad in Smögen (a possible case file).
Recommendations adopted regarding protection of the habitats
of amphibians and reptiles include:
- General Recommendations Nos. 13 (1988), 26 and 27 (1991),
119 (2006) dealing with several species across several states and
more specific ones like Recommendation No. 33 (1991) on protection
of the natterjack toad in Ireland, Recommendation No. 70 (1998)
on crested newt habitat in Orton Brick Pits (United Kingdom), and
several recommendations on marine turtles from Nos. 7 (1987) to
- Recommendation No. 120 (2006) of the Standing Committee
refers to the measures proposed in the European Strategy for the
Conservation of Invertebrates where habitat loss is recognised as
the key threat and some guidance is provided on habitat management.
- Recommendation No. 132 (2007) of the Standing Committee
referring to the guidelines included in the Guidance for the Conservation
of Mushrooms in Europe considers habitat management as a priority
for the conservation of fungi species in Europe.
48. According to the European Plant Conservation Strategy (2008-2014),
endorsed by Recommendation No. 138 (2008), several key threats to
European plant diversity are related to habitat loss. These include
habitat fragmentation and loss of connectivity, as well as changes
in forestry and agriculture practices. Especially in the latter
case, both intensification and abandonment leading to loss of high
value nature farmland are noted as key threats.
4.1.5 Preliminary evaluation of Article 4 implementation.
49. In spite of significant efforts made by the Standing
Committee, and to some extent also by contracting parties, the situation
remains largely unsatisfactory. Pan-European protected area networks
are still incomplete; protection even within designated protected
sites is often insufficient; protection of habitats outside designated
areas is very poor; other policies do not take into account the
needs of habitat protection; overviews of implementation of recommendations
and the actual situation on the ground is scarce. Loss of habitat
thus remains the key threat to European biodiversity.
4.2 Implementation of Article 5 – strict protection
of plant species
50. Not much information is available on the state of
implementation of the provisions of the convention regarding strict
protection of the plant species included in Appendix I from direct
threats related to picking wild plants. There is no data regarding
case files opened concerning the failure of any contracting party
to fulfil these obligations and the European Plant Conservation
Strategy (2008-2014) does not list these threats as priority issues.
51. Recommendation No. 49 (1996) concerning protection of some
wild plant species which are subject to exploitation and commerce
is not strictly speaking part of Article 5 implementation but it
is related to it. In the convention only Appendix I lists plants,
namely the species in need of strict protection from all exploitation.
It is recognised that some plant species require an approach where
conservation is combined with sustainable use of the wild populations
similar to the approach of Article 7 towards relevant animal species.
Such plants requiring special attention but where, at the same time,
careful exploitation can be compatible with the conservation goals,
are listed in the appendix to the recommendation. The need to assure
sustainability of harvests and trade are also recognised in the
European Plant Conservation Strategy.
52. It can thus be concluded that although not much information
is available regarding protection of plants from picking and similar
direct threats, it does not appear to be a major threat to European
4.3 Implementation of Article 6 – strict protection
of animal species (Appendix II)
53. The convention has contributed to the improvement
of the conservation status of some species, most emblematically
the large carnivores. Wolves and brown bears have repopulated parts
of their former range. However, the status of these species on a
pan-European scale is still far from favourable, while the limited success
in their conservation has created significant controversies, especially
in Norway and Switzerland. Some progress has been achieved with
conservation of the only European endemic carnivore, the Iberian
lynx, but the species still remains critically endangered. Within
the convention framework co-ordination is performed by the Group
of Experts on large carnivores that co-operates with the Large Carnivore
Initiative for Europe, which prepared the conservation action plans
for the above-mentioned species.
54. Threats from hunting can be important to some endangered European
bird species. Recommendation No. 90 (2001) on the catching, killing
or trading of protected birds in Cyprus was last followed up in
2008 by BirdLife International. According to the report, the situation
is worsening rather than improving. No data of European Commission
involvement in the case is available even though the practices of
indiscriminate trapping of birds are against both the Bern Convention
and the Birds Directive.
4.4 Implementation of Article 7 – protection of fauna
species subject to exploitation
55. Several species listed in Appendix III are common
in many member states and are hunted as regular game species. Recommendation
No. 128 (2007) of the Standing Committee on the European Charter
on Hunting and Biodiversity invites contracting parties and observers
to take the charter into consideration and thus ensure that hunting
56. Some species covered by this article, however, are at far
from secure levels and require more conservation action. The European
Bison Action Plan prepared by the Large Herbivore Initiative and
endorsed by Recommendation No. 102 (2003) is one example, while
the Action Plan for Conservation of Eurasian Lynx in Europe, prepared
by the above-mentioned Large Carnivore Initiative, is another.
4.5 Implementation of Article 8 – capture and killing
57. An overview of implementation is not easy to obtain,
but apparently most of the contracting parties have banned indiscriminate
hunting methods as required by this article. Actual implementation
of the ban seems to be insufficient in some member states regarding
the indiscriminate catching of birds and it can be a serious threat
to some species. The problem seems to be serious in some parts of
Cyprus according to the above-mentioned BirdLife International report.
4.6 Implementation of Article 9 – exceptions
58. According to this article, member states complete
compulsory reports for the granting of exceptions from the protection
rules of the convention. At present, there is little data on whether
contracting parties are actually reporting all the cases when such
exceptions are granted and on the seriousness of the impact of granting these
exceptions on biodiversity. However, there is no data suggesting
that the use of Article 9 might be causing serious problems.
4.7 Implementation of Article 11.2
59. The Standing Committee has dealt with several threats
to biodiversity from invasive species. General Recommendation No.
99 (2003) endorses the pan-European Strategy on Invasive Alien Species.
In addition to that, several more specific recommendations have
been adopted. A case file is currently open on Italy regarding the
American grey squirrel.
5 Summing up the problems
60. As all the recent surveys show, European biodiversity
is still in decline. It is thus clear that the main goal of the
convention is still far from being achieved. In the following paragraphs
we will sum up the main problems.
5.1 Geographical coverage of the convention.
61. At present, two of the Council of Europe member states
– the Russian Federation and San Marino – have not joined the convention.
While San Marino does not hold a very significant share of European biodiversity,
Russia certainly does. It is thus most unfortunate that a country
of extreme importance for nature conservation has not yet joined
62. Belarus – a country rich in nature – is not a member of the
convention. The problem is, however, slightly ameliorated by the
fact that this country is an observer to the convention.
63. The geographical coverage of African countries by the convention
is also not very logical. It covers neither all countries important
for European migratory species nor even all the countries close
to Europe (for example, those having a Mediterranean coastline).
5.2 Creating protected area networks
64. Pan-European networks are largely incomplete. While
Natura 2000 can be regarded as “half-made”, the Emerald Network
is still largely in its infancy. The status of the Emerald Network
is also not easily visible to the general public. Coherence between
the two networks has not yet been fully assured, especially relating
to the habitat lists and their interpretation.
5.3 Securing protection of the sites
65. An overview of the situation on a pan-European scale
is not available. Enforcement of decisions is weak as the Standing
Committee does not have any strong tools to make the contracting
parties act upon its recommendations. Within the European Union
the situation is slightly better as the Commission has stronger tools,
but there is no clear mechanism for a “direct link” between the
Standing Committee and the Commission. Therefore, even the European
Union member states sometimes continue practices violating both
the convention and the directives in spite of the relevant recommendations
by the Standing Committee.
66. There is little harmonisation of protection rules and management
planning between the contracting parties. No guidance on this matter
has been issued by the Standing Committee (or by the European Commission).
No management planning software to compliment the Emerald/Natura
2000 software with site specific management plans has ever been
5.4 Securing protection of the habitats on the wider
67. No overview of the impact of infrastructure development,
agricultural intensification, forestry practices or afforestation
on habitat diversity in Europe is available, but it is clear that
the situation poses threats to many species. Efforts by the Standing
Committee and the European Commission have been insufficient.
5.5 Securing the protection of species
68. Many species have an unfavourable status and often
the situation continues to deteriorate. Some cases of non-compliance
with the convention have not been properly resolved. In most cases
the species are affected by the loss of suitable habitats.
69. Apart from habitat loss, several species are also threatened
by unsustainable hunting. The most serious example is the indiscriminate
catching of birds in some Mediterranean contracting parties. Here,
the lack of a “direct link” between the Standing Committee and the
European Commission is clearly a handicap, as these countries are
also European Union member states. Protection of large carnivores
is also of concern in some member states both within and outside
the European Union.
70. It is also worth noting that some provisions of the Bern Convention
may not be completely secured by the directives because the appendices
of the convention and the annexes of the directives have a somewhat different
composition and the provisions related to alien species appear to
be somewhat stronger in the convention. At present, the European
Commission is active almost exclusively in the framework of the directives.
71. Taking the above into consideration, the Assembly
should recommend that the Committee of Ministers enhance co-operation
with the European Union in order to achieve compatibility between
the Emerald Network of areas of special conservation interest under
the Bern Convention and the Natura 2000 Network of protected habitats
resulting from the European Union Habitats Directive and in particular
with regard to establishing protected area networks, the management
of protected areas and the protection of species.
72. More generally, the Committee of Ministers should make the
Bern Convention and the work of its expert bodies more visible internationally
and ensure that it is regarded as one of the priorities of the Council