This final chapter returns to the central issues identified in Chapter 1: what insights can the detailed history and attendant historical institutionalist approach presented in the book contribute to understanding:

Conflicts in establishing the Natura 2000 network?

The resolution of acute conflicts between human land uses and Natura 2000 sites?

The process of EU integration in the nature policy field?

The future of EU nature policy?

An historical institutional analysis is applied to the history presented in the earlier chapters, in the framework of the three identified phases in EU environmental policy.

Addressing issue 1 in the light of the history presented, the book identifies factors that have arguably contributed to conflicts during the establishment of Natura 2000.

Addressing issue 2, the chapter discussed different schools of thought on the operation of the Article 6(4) derogation for damaging plans/projects. Amongst the points addressed, ‘strict’ versus ‘flexible’ approaches to Article 6(4) of the Habitats Directive are assessed.

Addressing issue 3, the chapter assesses the consensus around the idea that the Member States in some sense lost control of EU nature policy, and that the policy has had unintended consequences from the (or at least from certain) Member States’ perspective. The chapter concludes that the apparent consensus in the literature emphasising supranational integration in the field of EU nature policy and losses of control by the Member States requires updating to reflect important intergovernmental dynamics, including the changing role of the European Commission. EU nature policy is not as supranational as it is often portrayed.

The chapter concludes by reflecting on themes from the past of EU nature policy in looking to the future.