"Towards an improved implementation of the Birds- and Habitats Directive": an inventory of experiences in Austria, England, Flanders and the Netherlands in relation to two dilemma's.
Two approaches to achieve conservation objectives in Natura 2000 sites have recently received much attention from the Dutch government. The first approach applies to Natura 2000-sites where active investments in the site's conservation objectives are stimulated by combining economic development and ecological restoration. The second approach relates to providing space for natural processes or restoration projects with a focus on the functioning of the ecosystem, rather than only species or habitat type specific approaches. While the Ministry of Economic Affairs considers both approaches very promising for speeding up the process towards achieving the Natura 2000 conservation objectives, the approaches can turn into dilemma's because at least some characteristics of the approaches appear to be problematic in view of the European case law relating to article 6 of the Habitats Directive. The aim of the research was to investigate whether the two dilemmas are also experienced in Austria, England and Flanders and, if so, how they address the legal challenges. This report first discussed the legal framework of article 6 of the Habitats Directive, with special attention for the terms 'deterioration' and 'integrity of the site', and the precautionary principle. Next, the outcomes of the comparative research are described. In the final part of the report, the main findings have been summarised and the spotlight is turned on the Netherlands again: What could we learn from views and approaches in other Member States and could these lessons learned limit or solve the dilemmas in the Netherlands?