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  • NGOs combat ‘deregulation’ threat to nature

    More than 100 environmental NGOs have come together to fight threats to nature and the environment posed by the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s ‘deregulation’ agenda.

    The new president wants to cut the administrative burden on businesses caused by environmental rules – so-called ‘green tape’ – and has ordered an in-depth review of the EU birds and habitats directives, ostensibly to see if they are effective in protecting the natural world. However, environmental groups fear the underlying motive is to weaken the directives in order to create a more ‘business-friendly’ climate.

    The Commission is holding a public consultation, so the NGOs’ initiative ‘Nature Alert’ is based on getting citizens across the 28 EU member states to participate in the consultation. Nature Alert is being organised and promoted by four transnational NGOs – BirdLife, the European Environmental Bureau, Friends of the Earth Europe, and WWF – with 100 more supporting it through their websites.

    Environmental NGOs say there is widespread evidence that the ‘green tape’ argument has no substance. A study for the Commission by independent consultants in 2010 on the EU’s administrative burden put the environmental burden at 0.6% out of a total of €101 billion in red tape.

    The protection given to animals, plans and habitats by the EU birds and habitats directives is recognised as some of the strongest in the world. Jeremy Wates of the EEB said: ‘The Commission’s current fixation with deregulation and cutting so-called green tape is blinding it to its effective solutions for endangered habitats and species. Instead of unpicking these laws, more effort should be put into implementing them as they bring benefits to both nature and the economy.’

    The Nature Alert e-action is being coordinated at and the websites of the four organising NGOs. Comments on the Commission’s consultation must be submitted by 24 July. Almost 200,000 submissions have been made so far, showing the depth of concern among citizens.