New EU Guidelines on Inland Waterways and Nature Protection

The European Commission is issuing new guidelines on inland navigation and nature protection to assist this important sector in applying EU environmental legislation. The guidelines – “Inland waterway transport and Natura 2000 – sustainable inland waterway development and management in the context of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives” – explain how best to ensure that activities related to inland navigation are compatible with EU environmental policy in general and nature legislation in particular. The document also emphasizes the significance of the inland navigation for securing long-term sustainability of EU transport network and highlights the achievements of this sector in integrating nature protection into its activities to date.

The guidelines take a holistic approach to inland waterway transport and nature protection. They explain the policy context of inland navigation and biodiversity conservation in Europe. They stress that Natura 2000 sites are not designed to be ‘no development zones’ and that new developments are not excluded, provided that they guarantee a sufficient level of nature protection. The document also explains the legal obligations of infrastructure developers and managers from the point of EU environmental legislation, with a particular focus on the Birds and Habitats Directives. A number of case studies are presented, with examples of good practice showing how inland waterway development and management can go hand-in-hand with nature protection. The guidelines particularly emphasize the benefits of integrated planning, whereby environmental requirements are taken into consideration at every stage of infrastructure development process and the participation of different stakeholders, including NGOs and civil society, is ensured in an active and transparent manner, securing win-win solutions for both sectors.

This document is the fourth guidance document on application of EU nature legislation in the context of strategic EU sectors. Previously published guidelines concerned wind energy, non-energy mineral extraction industry and developments in ports and estuaries.

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