Natura 2000 Areas
Natura 2000 is a network of core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species, and some rare natural habitat types which are protected in their own right. It stretches across all 27 EU countries, both on land and at sea. Its aim is to maintain this selection of Europe's most important habitat types and species in a favourable state of conservation.
The Natura 2000 network is made up of so-called Sites of Community Importance (Natura 2000 sites), which fall into two categories:
- Special Areas of Conservation/Sites of Community Importance (SAC - Special Areas of Conservation/SCI - Site of Community Importance) - established under the European Union Habitats Directive, known as Directive 92/43/EEC/21-May-1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora;
- Special Protected Areas (SPA - Special Protected Areas) - established under the Birds Directive of the European Union, known as Directive 79/409/EEC/02-Apr-1979 on the conservation of wild birds.
Any plan or program that may significantly affect a nature protection area on its own or combined with other plans or projects must undergo an Appropriate Assessment (AA) evaluating its potential impacts upon the nature protection area of community interest, taking into account the conservation objectives of the respective nature protection area. In the case of the plans or projects that are subject to the environmental assessment or to the environmental impact assessment, the appropriate assessment of the potential effects on the nature protection area of community interest is an integral part of the process.
The Appropriate Assessment is carried out in accordance with the applicable legal requirements (Ministry Order no. 19/2010 for the approval of the Methodological Guide on the appropriate assessment of the potential effects of plans or projects on protected natural areas of Community interest). Following the appropriate assessment, the Environmental Protection Agency issues the Natura 2000 Approval or the decision to reject the respective project or plan.
The stages of the Appropriate Assessment procedure are:
- The screening stage;
- The stage of the appropriate assessment study. This stage contains the measures applied to reduce the impact and any alternative solutions, on a case-by-case basis;
- The stage of compensatory measures, used when there are no alternative solutions and when the negative impact persists.
What should an Appropriate Assessment study include?
- Information on the proposed project subject to approval: name, description, objectives, information about production and technological processes, raw materials used, substances or chemical preparations used, geographical and administrative location, physical changes, necessary natural resources, generated emissions and waste, requirements related to land use, duration of construction, operation and decommissioning, etc.;
- Information on the natural protected areas of community interest which will be affected: surface, types of ecosystems, types of habitats and species, description of the ecological functions of the affected species and habitats of community interest, conservation status of species and habitats, conservation objectives of the natural area of community interest and a description of the current state of conservation of the natural protection area of community interest;
- Impact identification and evaluation;
- Impact mitigation measures;
- Alternatives solutions;
- Compensatory measures and an implementation plan.