WWF Greece requests the European Commission to intervene to save Natura 2000 sites

Posted on 20 December 2022

WWF Greece sent a report to the European Commission yesterday, to ensure that Greece will take all necessary actions for the protection of these unique areas.

Two years ago, in December 2020, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) delivered its judgment in a case brought by the European Commission against Greece, and declared that Greece had violated its obligations under EU law  in relation to the Natura 2000 network (Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC). In particular, the Court found that Greece had failed to establish, as required, within the prescribed period (by 2012), the appropriate conservation objectives and the necessary conservation measures for Natura 2000 sites. This judgment concerned the entire Natura 2000 network in the country, and not specific sites or species, revealing thus Greece’s systematic failure to protect significant and vulnerable ecosystems.

Deeply concerned about Greece’s prolonged and unjustifiable non-compliance with the judgment of the CJEU and its obligations under the habitats directive, WWF Greece sent yesterday a report to the European Commission, in which it demonstrated that Greece has not adopted the necessary measures to comply with the judgment, and asked the European Commission to take all necessary measures to ensure that Natura 2000 sites in Greece are effectively protected.

Since the establishment of the Natura 2000 network in Greece, nearly 20 years ago, the measures that have been established concern just a very small number of Natura sites and, as noted by the Court in its judgment, are inappropriate, inadequate and not in line with the habitats directive. As a result, these unique areas have been left entirely unprotected. It should be noted that the Court’s judgment in December 2020 was not the first time that the Court declared Greece to be in breach of its obligations under the habitats directive. Previous cases, where the Court found that Greece had failed to comply with its obligations, concerned specific sites, such as Zakynthos (in 2002 and in 2012), Kyparissia bay (in 2016), Koroneia lake (in 2013), and protected species, such as the Milos viper (in 2006).

In the past few years, Greece has initiated certain processes with the view to adopting protective measures for Natura 2000 sites, but these processes and related actions are inappropriate, untimely and inadequate to ensure compliance with the judgment and the obligations under the habitats directive. In particular, the project for the development of Special Environmental Studies, designed to lead to the adoption of presidential decrees and management plans for all Natura 2000 sites, is experiencing significant delays and problems, and it is doubtful how and when it will be completed. What is more, recently-enacted national legislation on protected areas, including Natura 2000 sites (i.e. environmental law 4685/2020 and the provision on protection sub-areas within Natura sites in law 4782/2021) is, in many instances, inconsistent with the Directive, and does not create an appropriate legal framework for the adoption of the necessary protective measures. Overall, Greece’s actions and inactions since the delivery of the judgment demonstrate its lack of resolve and determination to implement promptly and effectively the required actions to comply with the judgment.

In view of these reasons, WWF Greece, in its report, called upon the European Commission to take all necessary actions to ensure that Greece adopts an effective protective regime for Natura 2000 sites and that it:

  1. establishes appropriate conservation objectives for protected habitats and species in Natura 2000 sites
  2. adopts presidential decrees and management for these areas, which will include the necessary and appropriate conservation measures for protected habitats and species.

Demetres Karavellas, CEO of WWF Greece, stated: “Two years after the judgment of the Court of Justice for insufficient protect Natura 2000 sites, and a year after the Prime Minister personally committed that the process for the establishment of a protective regime for all Natura 2000 sites would be completed by the end of 2022, we note with regret that limited tangible progress has been made. It is evident that the effective protection and sustainable development of these valuable areas has not been our country’s priority and this is disappointing. We need to realise that this is not only our obligation under EU law, but also our moral obligation towards future generations.”

Sophia Kopela, nature policy office at WWF Greece, added: “The Natura 2000 network is a critical tool for the protection and conservation of significant and vulnerable habitats and species, as well as for the achievement of the sustainable development of local communities and our country in general. These areas also form part of the European natural heritage, which is protected by EU law. Greece’s  failure to adopt the required conservation measures has, in essence, left these important biodiversity hotspots without any protection against threats and pressures. For these reasons, we believe that it is important that the European Commission takes appropriate measures to ensure that EU nature law is applied correctly and timely in the member states and that the EU responds promptly and efficiently to the biodiversity crisis and the urgent need to reverse its loss”.

WWF Greece’s full report to the European Commission can be found here.

The reply of the European Commission.

Contact for Media:

Christy Sotiriou, Media Relations & PR Manager, WWF Greece, 6947880699, c.sotiriou@wwf.gr

© Βασίλης Κοκκινίδης / WWF Ελλάς