The Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) was adopted by European environment ministers in 1979. It was approved by the Council of the European Communities in 1982 and entered into force in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1985. To date, 50 countries have acceded to the Convention, including four in Africa – Burkina Faso, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia – whose territories host overwintering sites for European bird species. The EU is also party to the Convention in its capacity as an international organisation. All EU member states are therefore bound by the Convention’s provisions. The appendices to the Bern Convention served as the model for the annexes to the Habitats Directive.
The Convention regulates species conservation by imposing restrictions on taking species from the wild and on exploitation. It constitutes a commitment to protect species’ habitats. Particular emphasis is given to endangered and vulnerable species.
Species conservation provisions
The Convention begins with a general chapter requiring parties to take protective measures and a chapter on the protection of habitats. Its main Chapter III contains specific provisions on species conservation. Measures taken under these provisions must be coordinated where they apply to migratory species. The remaining chapters consist of supplementary and organisational provisions.
Appendix I: Strictly Protected Flora Species
The approximately 700 plant species listed in Appendix I may not be taken from the wild or harmed. Examples of Appendix I species include several priority species for Germany under Annex II of the Habitats Directive –(Jurinea cyanoides)Jurinea cyanoides, Elbe water dropwort (Oenanthe conioides) and Bavarian feather grass (Stipa pulcherrima subsp. bavarica) – alongside water chestnut (Trapa natans), eastern pasqueflower (Pulsatilla patens) and the orchids summer lady’s tresses (Spiranthes aestivalis) and yellow lady’s slipper (Cypripedium calceolus). The habitats of these species are subject to strict protection, with the choice of habitat protection measures left to signatory states.
Appendix II: Strictly Protected Fauna Species
Strict species conservation provisions apply to the 710 animal species listed in Appendix II, which include both familiar species such as otter (Lutra lutra), wolf (Canis lupus) and brown bear (Ursus arctos) and less familiar species like the dusky large blue butterfly (Maculinea nausithous), the Apollo butterfly (Parnassius apollo) and the hermit beetle (Osmoderma eremita). These may be neither disturbed nor captured, killed or traded. In this regard, the Bern Convention supplements CITES, which solely governs international trade.
Appendix III: Protected Fauna Species
Appendix III contains – like to Annex III of the EU Birds Directive – species that are in need of protection but may be hunted or otherwise exploited in exceptional instances. Similarly, the prohibitions on certain hunting methods and types of hunting equipment listed in Appendix IV are largely identical to those in Annex IV of the Birds Directive.
|Appendix II||Appendix III|
|Animals (total)||approx. 711||approx. 567|
|Birds||ca. 350||ca. 300|