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The changing policy environment for biodiversity in the European Union
Europe likes to keep its biodiversity on hold. After two millennia of expansion of human activity, few of the original habitats and species are unaffected. For the most part what is still of conservation value is located in designated sites with very varying degrees of protection. The ‘jewel in the crown’ philosophy of safeguarding living museums of biodiversity has, for a long time, been the preferred strategy in Europe. However, the growing scientific evidence is that many species and habitats of value for biodiversity lie outside the protected areas. There is therefore some pressure to expand the protection regime to areas beyond the safeguarded borders. This process of widening the policy base is spurred by successful coalitions of wildlife and rural amenity groups, by the growing tourism and leisure industry, by the political and economic insupportability of the EU Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies, and by the shift to emphasising rural distinctiveness as part of the identity of locality that is sweeping throughout Europe (see O'Riordan 2001).
This chapter will assess the history and prognosis for European biodiversity. It will particularly examine the response by EU member states to the EU Habitats Directive (the Council Directive 92/43 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild flora and fauna).
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