This chapter discusses the second identified phase in the evolution of EU environmental policy: the “golden era” from 1987 to 1992. The roles of certain key individuals in this general phase of the history are introduced, including Environment Commissioners, the Director General of DG XI (Environment) and the head of DG XI’s legal unit.

The origins and development of the Habitats Directive proposal in the period 1987–1988 are then discussed, including the roles played by certain influential individuals both within and outside the European Commission.

Key policy developments covered in this period include the production of the first draft of the Habitats Directive; the retention of the Birds and Habitats Directives as separate instruments; the role of consultation in the Habitats Directive’s development; the coining of “Natura 2000”; the relationship between the draft Habitats Directive and the Bern Convention; the “genie leaving the bottle” – the draft instrument’s circulation to NGOs and others around Europe; the potential blocking of the Habitats Directive proposal by Commission President Jacques Delors, and the tactical decision taken within DG XI (Environment) to drop the annexes of species and habitats from the proposal for the purpose of securing agreement within the European Commission to the proposal’s launch; the departure of the influential Environment Commissioner Stanley Clinton Davis; and, finally, plans to launch the proposal with the Member States at a “rèunion de sèduction” in 1988.