The ill-fated draft Directive has remained blocked, with a block minority made up of the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria maintaining their opposition to the draft text, since the end of 2007.
In the detail of the announcement, the Commission states that it will examine whether the objective of the draft Directive is best served by maintaining the proposal or by withdrawing it. The Commission will judge the feasibility of reaching adoption for the Directive before the European Parliament elections (which are scheduled for May 2014).
Throughout the negotiations on the draft Directive the NFU has had a number of serious concerns about the proposals and forcefully lobbied for it to be thrown out. The continued block on the draft Directive is unprecedented, but demonstrates that serious concerns about the proposals are shared with a number of other Member States.
The NFU’s major concerns with the draft proposals have centred on the fact that we do not believe that there is a need for additional legislation in this area. Soils in the UK, and across the EU, are already protected by a range of laws and regulations.
Farmers have an inherent interest in maintaining their land in good condition and in assuring its long-term fertility and productivity, and we believe that these can be supported through carefully targeted advice and information, voluntary action, partnerships and a greater emphasis on monitoring and research, but not another legislative proposal.
Amongst the announcements yesterday, the Commission also committed to undertaking a ‘fitness check’ or a evaluation of Natura 2000, which will involve assessing the potential for simplification and the reduction of costs and burdens . Natura 2000 is the network of protected areas under the Birds and Habitats Directives.
The NFU will continue to work and liaise with COPA-COGECA on the Commission’s proposals.