Agreement on EU invasive alien species regulation

Since the start of this year, the European Parliament and the Council have been negotiating the draft EU regulation on invasive alien species (IAS) published by the Commission in September 2013. After several months of rather turbulent negotiations, a compromise text was finally agreed and approved in March. The negotiated text will still have to be formally approved by the Parliament and Council of Ministers; however, it now seems more than likely that this long-awaited legislation will soon see the light of day. The plenary vote in Parliament is due to take place on 15 April, and the Council will take its final decision after the vote.

In general, it can be concluded that – perhaps against all odds – the agreed upcoming EU Regulation for IAS covers a lot of ground. It provides a legislative basis for several key interventions: prevention, early warning and rapid response to new IAS and the management of already established invasive species. In addition to the action at EU level, the Regulation also gives important backing for Member States to adopt further measures at the national level (eg new legislation). As such, the future EU legislative framework for IAS has even wider coverage than the prevention-oriented biosecurity systems in Australia and New Zealand.

However, the broadness of the Regulation can also pose several challenges. A number of aspects for implementing the Regulation in practice, including the risk assessment procedure for IAS of EU interest, still remain to be specified. Furthermore, apart from the general cost recovery principle, the Regulation does not identify any particular means to finance the implementation, eg foresee any financial support for rapid eradication of IAS.

The key compromises made during the negotiations, including the addition of the possibility for national derogations for socio-economic reasons and limiting the type of species entering the EU list, somewhat weakened the strength of the original proposal. However, the criteria for obtaining exemptions to EU level restrictions are rather stringent, including a clear requirement for a contingency and eradication plans. In addition, even though possible socio-economic benefits of IAS to Member States are to be taken into consideration, the identification of IAS of Union concern is still, first and foremost, based on biodiversity and environmental considerations. Furthermore, there is a clear emphasis on integrating the adverse - rather than positive - socio-economic impacts of IAS into the risk assessment process. Finally, at the request of Member States, the Commission still also holds the power to legislate, by the way of targeted implementing acts, species of regional concern. Consequently, the final Regulation text can still be considered as a reasonable compromise, providing a long-awaited legislative framework for addressing IAS at the EU level.