BirdLife Europe e-news, Vol XI, Issue 1, January 2015
Nature in 2015: dead or alive? 
What a difference Mr. Timmermans can make 
by Luca Bonaccorsi   
If you are reading this op-ed it is because you care about nature. And since you do, you have probably asked yourself in the past few weeks: what should I expect from 2015?  Is it going to be a good or a bad year for us, for birds, for biodiversity and, ultimately, for nature on the only planet, that we know of, hosting such an amazing variety of life forms.
We have tried to answer this question in our newsletter, in its new format.
The “scary” part is that 2015 will be a crucial year for the future of the Planet since many fundamental decisions, with long term implications, will be taken in the next 12 months. Ariel Brunner, referring to EU politics, rightly calls it the “last chance saloon Commission”. But the message could easily be broadened to the overall condition and perspective for the planet, if we consider that this is the year of the Paris Summit on Climate Change. 
So, 2015: dead or alive? The answer is: it depends. 
Of course all hearts are already looking at the UN summit in December, but a lot will happen in the run up to the COP 21. The European Union is defining the set of tools to decarbonise its economy and making it sustainable, but some of the solutions are proving to be nearly as bad as the problem: Sini Eräjää explains the disastrous impact on nature that some of our “clean energy” might produce, and the relevant moments in the quest for sustainable renewables in the fight against climate change.
In 2015 the EU will also be taking crucial decisions for the health of its seas, currently on the verge of collapse. Bruna Campos explains the importance of the Baltic multiannual plan, which will set a precedent for all other regional seas plans.
This is also the year that will show what a failure the greening of EU agricultural policy was. Trees Robijns explains how and when it will be evident that the greening does not deliver and that current policies can only continue obliterating life in farmland.
For us however 2015 is, first and foremost, the year of the Fitness check for the Birds and Habitats Directives which are the nature protection laws in the EU and a reference also for non-EU protected areas like those included in the Emerald network. Will they be reviewed or butchered? Wouter Langhout explains why this will be the moment when the enemies of nature conservation will wake up and will seek to weaken the legislation for their narrow interests, to the detriment of Europe’s citizens. By June we will also publish our mid-term assessment of the EU Biodiversity strategy: not a lot of good news in store.
We will be producing a lot of science during the year. Among the most relevant, the third assessment of European birds populationsWillem van Den Bossche explains. In 1994, 38% of the species were considered to be in an unfavourable condition. By 2004, this figure had increased to 43%. The 2015 assessment will measure the progress towards the European Union’s target to increase by 50% the proportion of species in a secure or improving condition by 2020. We will also publish figures on illegal killing, trapping and trade of wild birds in the Mediterranean. This scientific review is the first comprehensive quantitative Pan-Mediterranean situation analysis of this kind and will serve as a basis for setting conservation priorities, advancing a clear advocacy agenda.
So, 2015… a year full of crucial decisions. Unfortunately all these decisions will be taken in the context of a new season of “deregulation” directly resurrected from a jurassic and ideological vision of development that sacrifices nature and people’s health to short term economic gains. That is why our “cover” is dedicated to the ex-ante man of the year: Vice President Timmermans. 
The charming, multi-lingual right arm of president Juncker is a socialist and nature lover at home in the Netherlands, and Juncker’s executioner of nature protection laws in Brussels: a contradiction that will certainly emerge in the media and in the political circles. Timmermans has tried to withdraw the plastic bag regulation only to be defeated by the Council under the Italian Presidency. He has then tried to cancel the clean air and the waste laws, just to realise that he had no majority to support those decisions in Parliament, and therefore retreated into keeping the air quality measure and promising to come back later in the year with an even stronger waste package. 

Overall these can be seen as victories of the environmental movement and a clear political message to Juncker: the majority of Europeans do not want to weaken environmental laws. 
The only tangible political results he has obtained so far seems to be the growing discontent in the S&D political group (his own, as a matter of fact): most members of the socialist family cannot recognise themselves in Juncker’s agenda, and a widespread feeling of “betrayal” towards Mr. Timmermans might soon reach the higher floors at Berlaymont. 

Timmermans' role is really crucial to EU environmental policies, and this will inevitably influence similar battles elsewhere in Europe. Will we have better regulation or nature destruction? Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde? We are about to find out.  ​

Featured in this issue
EU Policy news                  
Conservation News
Working with Corporate
Partnership Stories
Events I Jobs
EU Policy news

The last chance saloon Commission?

Europe is in the grip of an economic, environmental and social crisis that in some countries is reaching dangerous levels, with politicians everywhere at lost about how to get out of it. Worryingly, the new Commission seems to be looking for solutions of the past rather than of the future. By Ariel Brunner

The Birds and Habitats Directives: reviewing or butchering?

The Fitness Check will be the moment when the enemies of nature conservation will wake up and will seek to weaken the legislation for their narrow interests, to the detriment of Europe’s citizens. By Wouter Langhout

The EU Biodiversity Strategy in 2015 – making up the balance

Actions are needed to improve implementation of existing EU environmental legislation. President Juncker and Vice President Timmermans have stated this was their intention, rather than piling up ever more rules. This would be a good place to start and show they mean what they say. Read more...

Sustainable fisheries and imaginative loopholes

European seas are in the brink of collapse. Management plans cannot be delayed further, and Member states need to make an effort in implementing environmental directives. The first opportunity decision makers will have to do so is through the Baltic multiannual plan, which will set a precedent for all other regional seas plans. By Bruna Campos

Defining the next decade of EU’s climate and energy policies

What is needed is not just a policy framework that fixates on cutting down emissions, but one that puts us on an environmentally sustainable pathway in a wider sense. New catch phrases such as ‘Energy Union’, ‘new governance framework’ have been introduced into the debate while leaving them open to various different interpretations. By Sini Eräjää

The Common Agricultural Policy in 2015: looking for results

A re-reading of the final legal text together with all the implementing and delegated acts and rules is killing our enthusiasm quite quickly. All eyes are now on simplification, implementation and whether we are finally getting any positive consequence on the ground at all. By Trees Robijns
Conservation news

Science in 2015: assessing European bird populations

In 1994, 38% of the species were considered to be in an unfavourable condition. By 2004, this figure had increased to 43%. If we look only at the EU the number grows to  48%. The 2015 assessment will measure the progress towards the European Union’s target to increase by 50% the proportion of species in a secure or improving condition by 2020. By Willem van Den Bossche

EU protected areas help wildlife adapt to climate change, new research shows

Global warming has various impacts on wildlife, one being the change in geographical distribution of species populations. New research compiled by scientists from 16 countries, including BirdLife experts, shows that EU Special Protection Areas facilitate distribution changes. By Elodie Cantaloube
Working with Corporate

“Biodiversity is everyone’s business”: teaming up with HeidelbergCement

The value of quarries to many plants and animals in Europe has long been recognised. However, consistent large scale efforts to promote biodiversity management across numerous sites by the same sector or company are more recent and stem from the recognition of nature protection as a crucial issue to the business. By Boris Barov
Inspiring BirdLife Partners activities and success stories

Better days for European Rollers in Serbia

European Roller is a modern symbol of nature conservation in Serbia. In the first half of the 20th century, the species was very common in the lowlands, as well as in hilly areas and river valleys of central and eastern part of the country. Sadly, this beautiful multi-coloured bird has been in the spotlight in recent years due to its rapid decline since the 1950s. Ornithologists decided to take action. Read more...

Tens of thousands march on Berlin to demand nature friendly farming

Wir haben es satt!” (“We are fed up!”) could be heard in the streets of Berlin on Saturday 17 January. The slogan was chanted by tens of thousands of people who marched on the city for the fifth consecutive year to express their concern that modern farming practices fail to respect the environment. Read more...

Tracing the Route of a 'wild' Silk Road in the Caucasus

The Black Sea Silk Road Corridor project, an ambitious 3,000 kilometre long tourist trail, offers an exciting opportunity to retrace the route of the ancient Silk Road through four countries: Armenia, Georgia, Turkey and Greece. Read more...

BirdLife Bulgaria supports rewilding of Rhodope Mountains

The Rhodope Mountains, located southeast of Bulgaria’s capital Sofia, have been chosen to become the seventh rewilding area within the Rewilding Europe initiative, which aims to make Europe a wilder continent with greater tolerance and encouragement of natural processes. Read more...

New project to repair and protect the Berlengas archipelago’s rich ecosystem

Included in UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves, Berlengas is known to be home for several species of marine birds and for hosting a diverse ecosystem. Unfortunately, the beautiful archipelago and its surrounding waters have suffered during the recent economic conditions; despite the efforts of national authorities to conserve the fragile ecosystem, the area is rapidly deteriorating. Read more...
January - June 2015: Latvian Presidency of the EU. Learn more about BirdLife Europe' s recommendations for a successful Presidency on our website.

27 January 2015, Brussels (12am – 8pm): "The Power of Collaboration" 4th European Grid Conference on Energy and Democracy and 1st Good Practice Award Ceremony organised by Renewables Grid Initiative (RGI). More information and registration.

26 February 2015, London (9.30am - 5pm): BESTGRID workshop "Good practice exchange". More details and registration.

4 March 2015, Brussels: Sustainable Future for EU Farming? Conference organised by the European Environmental Bureau, the Danish Ecological Council and BirdLife Europe. More information and registration.

BirdLife International Admin/Event Intern
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The intern will assist the administration and event departments in the BirdLife Europe secretariat office. If you are interested, please contact Jessica Redaelli for application information.

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