Research Tilburg Law School

Our mission is to understand and improve the role of law in tackling societal problems now and in the future.

Survival EU biodiversity laws crucial victory for wildlife

The European Commission has finally buried its controversial plan to revise the EU's biodiversity conservation legislation in order to make it more "business-friendly". Such a revision would have meant a fatal setback for European wildlife conservation, according to a Letter published in the journal Science today, written by Arie Trouwborst and Floor Fleurke of Tilburg Law School’s Department of European and International Public Law.

Trouwborst and Fleurke wrote the article together with another lawyer and two biologists from Sweden and Spain.

The 1979 Birds Directive and the 1992 Habitats Directive set out strict, enforceable obligations for EU member states to protect and restore vulnerable species and areas, and impose real limits on potentially harmful human activities. As the Letter puts it, this legislation “has the potential to actually do what it is supposed to do: protect vulnerable nature.”

Some governments and other stakeholders feel however that the Directives are doing their job a little too well, and in 2014 the new European Commission announced its wish to “modernize” the Directives as part of its broader deregulation agenda.

The Directives have survived this most serious assault since their inception thanks to clear evidence of their effectiveness and an unprecedented public mobilisation campaign. The focus will now shift from revising the legislation to its effective application. As Trouwborst cum suis highlight, cooperation between lawyers and other conservation professionals will be crucial to achieve this.


A. Trouwborst, G. Chapron, F.M. Fleurke, Y. Epstein & J.V. López-Bao. Europe’s biodiversity avoids fatal setback. Science, volume 355, issue 6321