Between rhetoric and reality: the implementation of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives in the Netherlands

Activity: Talk or presentation typesTalk or presentation (not at a conference)Academic


The EU Birds and Habitats Directives have had a significant influence on the evolution of nature conservation in the Netherlands. Existing policies and practices have been adapted to new requirements and new institutions have been explored and adopted to facilitate the implementation of both directives.

In this presentation I will reflect on the implementation of both directives in the Netherlands, paying attention to the co-evolution between discourses and institutions. The implementation of the Birds and Habitats directives is, besides a few success, mainly characterized by stories about implementation difficulties, legal hiccups, enforcement problems, and the failure to ensure the sustainable conservation of many species and habitats. The development and recent annulment of the Dutch Nitrogen Action Programme reflects many of these issues. Institutional changes include several revisions of conservation law, the formulation of additional policies and policy instruments, as well as the development of widely shared interpretation rules. The ongoing interplay between discourses and institutional changes shapes the way in which legal requirements of the EU directives impact conservation practices and decisions-making processes and therewith the environmental outcomes.
Period6 Nov 2019
Held atRadboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands
Degree of RecognitionNational


  • Natura 2000
  • implementation
  • European Union
  • nature conservation