Funding Natura 2000
The study by IEEP, WWF and GHK aims to support an improved integration of Natura 2000 into the next EU budget. This study, carried out for the European Commission, assesses the successes and shortcomings of the existing EU framework for funding Natura 2000. It also identifies possibilities for improving these financing arrangements in the future.
Despite the increased effort and some good examples on financing Natura 2000 from the Community funds, the funding allocated to Natura 2000 from the EU budget appears inadequate. The study estimates that the financial allocations for Natura 2000 from the EU budget are between 550 – 1150 million EUR / year. This range should be considered a rough approximation only as the lack of transparency and detail in the EU funds’ budgetary allocations makes it difficult to estimate the overall EU contribution. The estimated figures represent only 9-19 per cent of the estimated financing needs of 5.8 billion EUR / year.
The relatively small contribution of the EU budget to Natura 2000 can be explained by a number of factors. Even though a rather wide range of Natura 2000 measures are eligible for financing under the different EU funds, some gaps still remain (eg ongoing management and monitoring of Natura 2000 sites). A range of constraints, such as limited integration of Natura 2000 into the national funding priorities and lack of stakeholders’ capacity, also hinder the uptake of opportunities provided by the EU co-financing framework.
The study concludes that improving the existing integrated approach to co-financing Natura 2000 seems to provide the most politically feasible, effective and risk-averse way forward. For example, improving the availability and targeting of financial allocations, as well as their transparency, are considered as key improvements for the future. In addition, it is foreseen that support for capacity building and exploration of innovative resources (eg innovative ways to use the existing funds and the development of new mechanisms for financing) could help to increase the overall funding available.