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Joint Links REFIT

The Joint Links REFIT Task and Finish Group, was set up in June 2014 to address the EU review of the Habitats and Birds Directives. The REFIT initiative is the European Commission’s Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme. This focuses on reducing ‘regulatory burden’, so as to meet EU policy and regulatory goals at least cost. The inclusion of the Birds and Habitats Directives within this process is the latest manifestation of the ongoing threats to the Directives which are widely viewed as one of the most important pieces of legislation protecting nature.

Chair: Kate Jennings, RSPB

The REFIT group is a Joint Links Task and Finish Group working together with our Sister Links, Northern Ireland Environment Link, Scottish Environment Link, Wales Environment Link, and members to ensure that the review is informed by the best evidence and has the best result for nature, people and business.

On 12 May 2015, 100 NGOs from across the four country Links jointly issued a position statement and press release on the review of the Habitats and Birds Directives.

For more information, please contact Kate Jennings.

Further evidence submission to the European Commission

Throughout May and June 2015, the European Commission held ‘mission’ meetings with 10 member states to discuss the member states’ evidence submissions. On 1 June, ten delegates from the Joint Links REFIT group attended the UK NGO mission meeting with the Commission and the consultants carrying out the REFIT review. The group subsequently agreed to submit additional evidence to the review process, highlighting key elements of Link’s previous response and addressing additional issues raised in the mission meeting.

The further evidence was supported by 100 NGOs from across the Joint Links network and is set out in the following six papers below:

Submission of evidence to the European Commission’s fitness check of the Habitats and Birds Directives

The Task and Finish Group submitted their full evidence to the fitness check of the Habitats and Birds Directives on 30 April 2015. They are delighted that this response was supported by 100 UK NGOs from across the Joint Links. The full evidence is set out below:

Public consultation

The European Commission’s public consultation closed on 26 July 2015. A total of 520,325 citizens across Europe responded to the consultation via the Nature Alert webtool. On 24 July 2015 the Joint Links published a press release in the run up to the closure of the consultation.

Update from the Group:

The work of the group continues to focus on advocacy for the effective implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives, and opposing any moves to open up the Directives for review. Notwithstanding many positive statements by Ministers across many Member States, including the UK, there is still a risk that the Directives might be opened.

The EU consultant’s report on the fitness check of the Directives, which is the next major milestone, was expected to be announced during Green Week (30 May/2 June) or at the Dutch ‘Dynamic Nature’ Conference (28/30 June). However, it is clear that the results of the Fitness Check are being discussed at the highest levels within the Commission, and that both the conclusions and the timescale for their release remain uncertain. Continued pressure from Link and its members will therefore be crucial over the coming months, although inevitably activity is constrained during the EU Referendum period.

A number of Link members are involved with the Defra Working Group on better implementation of the Directives, and an event to sign the Memorandum of Agreement underpinning this work is now planned for 6 July 2016 and will be attended by Environment Minister Rory Stewart. Link is not a member of this group, but will continue to provide contextual advice and information to participating Link members as required.

The Joint Links position statement on REFIT, which was signed by 100 NGOs last year, is currently being updated to reflect the huge level of public support for the Directives expressed in the response to the European Commission consultation (‘Nature Check’), and our proposals for better implementation.

Last updated: 27 May 2016