The Habitats and Birds Directives versus the Common Fisheries Policy: A Paradox

Jaap Leijen


The interaction between environmental conservation and fisheries has never been easy. This is no less true for European Union (EU) policy in these areas. Numerous EU Member States, and the European Commission, are struggling with the paradox in EU law that emerges when EU environmental policy and EU fisheries policy overlap. On the one hand, EU Member States are required to take conservation or protection measures, if necessary, in specific areas to fulfil their duties stemming from the Habitats and Birds Directives. On the other hand, Member States are, to a great extent, deprived of their competence to fulfil these duties as soon as these measures possibly touch upon fisheries. There is an exclusive competence for the EU attached to the common fisheries policy of the EU. This article addresses this paradoxical situation by analysing the Habitats and Birds Directives on the one side, and the exclusive competence of the EU in the area of fisheries on the other. The article concludes by examining possible solutions to the paradox, hopefully constituting worthwhile contributions to an ungoing discussion.

The article is a revised version of a report written on behalf of the Amsterdam International Law Clinic.

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How to cite: Jaap Leijen, 'The Habitats and Birds Directives versus the Common Fisheries Policy: A Paradox' (2011) 27(73). Utrecht Journal of International and European Law 19-45, DOI:

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Published on 14 June 2011.

ISSN: 2053-5341 | Published by Ubiquity Press | Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.