EU auditors urge better oversight of biodiversity project

21 Feb 17

The European Union’s flagship biodiversity programme, Natura 2000, requires better oversight and financial management, auditors have said.

In an assessment released today, the European Court of Auditors found shortcomings across the programme and a lack of reliable information on costs and budgeting.

Loss of biodiversity is one of the key environmental challenges facing the EU, and the Natura 2000 network was founded to halt the loss of natural habitats and species. The network operates out of 27,000 sites across Europe, accounting for 18% of the EU’s land area.

Auditors visited 24 Natura 2000 sites in France, Germany, Spain, Poland and Romainia, covering the majority of the biogeographical regions in Europe. They found that while the network plays a major role in protecting biodiversity, it had not been allowed to reach its fullest potential.

Nikoloas Milionis, a representative from the ECA, said the process of setting up the Natura 2000 network had been complicated but was now almost complete.

However, he added: “To achieve adequate protection of biodiversity across the Natura 2000 sites, the member states must still put in place proper conservation measures, appropriately funded and with a complete set of indicators measuring the results achieved.”

As such, auditors found that member states were not managing the network “sufficiently well,” and that coordination between authorities, stakeholders and between states had not been sufficiently developed.

Conservation measures were often delayed or ill-defined, and participating states did not always assess projects impacting on Natura 2000 sites, the report stated.

EU funds were “not well mobilised” to support the management of the network, and since states combined funding from the EU with their own money, there was a shortfall in reliable information regarding the costs of the network and its financing needs.

Moreover, there was an incomplete picture of actual EU funding up to 2013 and how much money had been allocated for 2014-20. Meanwhile, at site level, management plans seldom gave a full cost assessment.

Auditors also identified that data was not being updated consistently, and was often incomplete, which made comparing the performance of states more challenging. 

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