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There are some areas where the EU has very little influence on ‘our sovereignty’. Areas like Defence, Education, Health and others. I have dealt with these three  in the past and will move on to the others before 23rd June. However in the area of the environment the EU does have an important influence. I have published blogs on specific areas like the trade in rare species or the ivory trade but now I want to concentrate on ‘The Environment’ in general.basics_en

This is an area where the EU does have a major influence. Here is what Dr Charlotte Burns of the University of York, an expert in European Union environment policy has to say.

The planned referendum on whether the UK should exit the European Union raises a great many questions about the UK’s relationship with the EU and of the costs and benefits of EU membership. In the field of environmental policy, perhaps more than any other area, the EU has had an overwhelmingly positive effect. Through its EU membership the UK government has been required to put in place a host of policies with strict targets that are legally binding, and to provide regular publicly available reports upon its performance in relation to those targets. If the UK exits from the EU but remains part of the European Economic Area the huge progress made in improving the UK could be lost in the absence of external pressure and auditing from EU actors, particularly in the areas of habitats, birds and bathing water, whilst the UK would still be subject to a wide range of EU laws but with little influence over their content. A total withdrawal suggests a much wider erosion of environmental policy, which is perhaps the intention of the right within and without of the Conservative Party, but one which risks significant environmental damage to the UK.

Lets have a look at some of these policies.

Did you know that Europe is working to safeguard our natural resources and halt the decline of endangered species and habitats. Natura 2000 is a network of 26,000 protected natural areas, covering almost 20% of the EU’s land mass, where sustainable human activities can coexist with rare and vulnerable species and habitats.

Did you know that the EU has a major role in protecting birds, called the Birds Directive, click to read the full account, but basically it says ‘Europe is home to more than 500 wild bird species. But at least 32 % of the EU’s bird species are currently not in a good conservation status. The Birds Directive aims to protect all of the 500 wild bird species naturally occurring in the European Union’

Apart from protecting birds which was one of the first areas that EU law affected, the EU now has The Habitats Directive which  was adopted in 1992 to help maintain biodiversity. It protects over 1000 animals and plant species and over 200 types of habitat.

Not just wild animals are covered, protecting wild animal species outside their natural habitat is also important for biodiversity conservation. In this context, the EU adopted Council Directive 1999/22/EC of 29 March 1999 on the keeping of wild animals in zoos. The Zoos Directive aims to strengthen the role of zoos in the conservation of biodiversity. It calls on Member States to adopt measures for the licensing and inspection of zoos in order to ensure that zoos respect certain conservation and protection measures, including appropriate accommodation of the animals.

The EU is active in many commercial areas where the environment is concerned such as Fisheries

By bringing fish stocks back to sustainable levels, the new common fisheries policy (CFP) aims to provide EU citizens with a stable, secure and healthy food supply for the long-term. It seeks to bring new prosperity to the fishing sector, end dependence on subsidies and create new opportunities for jobs and growth in coastal areas. At the same time, it fosters the industry’s accountability for good stewardship of the seas.

Read all about the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and how environmental considerations have been integrated into it on the Fisheries website of the European Commission.

There is so much that the EU does in terms of the environment, but finally to finish on something close to my heart lets look at Forestry.

Forests are affected by a broad array of EU policies and initiatives arising from diverse EU sectoral policies. For several decades now, environmental forest functions have attracted increasing attention mainly in relation to the protection of biodiversity and, more recently, in the context of climate change impacts and energy policies. In public perception, apart from the traditional production of wood and other forest products, forests are increasingly valued for their role as public amenities, biodiversity reservoirs, regulators of climate and local weather, sources of clean water, protection against natural disasters and renewable energy sources. To read more on Forestry click EU Forestry policies

There is so much environmental policy and I have just picked on a few areas of interest to me and maybe you. To delve into it more you can look at the European Commission’s Environment website

To see other posts about our EU membership ( there are obviously 38 others, this being number 39) click EU membership summary And if you think any of them particularly relevant then please feel free to reblog or share them