This chapter discusses the third identified phase of EU environmental policy: weakening environmental policy dynamics from 1992 to the present day.
Trends in EU environmental policy in this period are discussed, including moves to the right politically at EU and Member State levels; a centralisation of power under Commission Presidents Barroso and Juncker, at the expense of individual commissioners of policy Directorates General; Euroscepticism and Brexit; the impacts of the financial crisis; a slowdown in new environmental policy-making at EU level; a move away from command and control regulation in favour of other policy approaches; a striking drop in environmental infringement actions taken against Member States by the European Commission; and the impacts of EU enlargement.
Progress in establishing the Natura 2000 network is discussed, with a focus on reasons for the gradual establishment of the network, and the delayed establishment of the network in the marine area.
A comprehensive discussion of key judgments of the Court of Justice of the EU is provided, covering site designation and site protection under the Birds and Habitats Directives, plus horizontal issues of relevance to both Directives. The law as it stands at EU level is described and assessed.
A review is also provided of ecological outcomes pursuant to the Natura 2000 network, addressing the question: is Natura 2000 working?
The recent history of the Birds and Habitats Directives is discussed, including the serious threat posed to the continuing existence of the Directives by the Commission’s REFIT (regulatory fitness) exercise. The conclusion of the REFIT exercise is discussed, as well as the subsequent development of an EU Action Plan for nature, people and the economy.