European Commission Celebrates 20 Years of Environmental Protection
21 May 2012: The European Commission recently marked the 20th anniversary of the Habitats Directive and LIFE, the EU financing programme for the environment. The Habitats Directive was adopted in response to loss of habitats and wildlife decline due to the problems of land-use changes, pollution and urban expansion, with the objective of conserving threatened habitats and species in Europe.
The Directive established the Natura 2000 network of protected areas and the LIFE financial instrument, which helped facilitate the conservation of numerous species on the brink of extinction, including the Italian Abruzzo Chamois, Hungarian Meadow Viper and Spanish Imperial Eagle. The Natura 2000 network has expanded since its inception to 26,000 protected sites covering nearly 18% of EU territory. The programmes under the Habitats Directive also have helped with the restoration of critical habitats such as Lithuanian sand dunes, the Austrian Danube, Swedish deciduous forests and wetlands in the Netherlands, according to the EC. [European Commission Press Release]