§ Mr. Spring
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what evaluation the Government have made of the success of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas in the European Union; and what role the Government are playing in plans to extend these areas to new member states upon enlargement. 
§ Mr. Meacher
The EU Habitats Directive (92/43/EC) requires each member state to identify and select special areas of conservation that, together with special protection areas under the Birds Directive, will form a coherent European ecological network to be known as Natura 2000. However, the adoption of site lists across the whole EU has been delayed, with lists comprising the six biogeographic regions not expected to be finalised until next year. Following the adoption of the lists of sites it will be for the European Commission and member states collectively to ensure that the network is evaluated against its stated aim of maintaining or restoring the features concerned at a favourable conservation in their natural range.
Member states are required to produce 6-yearly reports on the implementation of the Directive. Most member states have now done so for the period June 1994—December 2000. As soon as all countries have done so the Commission will seek to evaluate member states' 218W successes. The UK's report "First Report by the United Kingdom under Article 17 on implementation of the Directive from June 1994 to December 2000" is in the House Library.
To join the European Union countries have to have a requirement to implement the environmental acquis, which includes implementation and enforcement of environment legislation on the Birds and Habitats Directives. No transitional periods have been agreed for these Directives and the UK has supported new member states proposing Natura 2000 sites upon entry. Scientific advice and support has been provided by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee to some enlargement countries to assist them to understand and apply the site selection requirements of the Habitats Directive.