At times, European nature conservation efforts seem to create obstacles in their own path. One striking example for this is at present coming into focus in East Germany, where the huge crater-like holes remaining from the massive open cast lignite mining activities in the former GDR are to be recultivated and rehabilitated. However, birds have nonetheless already begun to settle and habitats have formed in some parts of the areas in question, so that the designation of the areas as 'Special Protection Areas' (SPAs) and 'Special Areas of Conservation' (SACs) within the meaning of the Birds and Habitats Directives seems indicated. On the other hand, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to realise the intended recultivation and rehabilitation measures in SPAs or SACs. The same dilemma may be encountered in other regions of Europe, especially in Eastern Europe, where former mining, industrial or military sites or similar areas are being subjected to a sea change. In this connection, the question arises of whether such areas in the process of conversion are eligible to be considered as SPAs and SACs at all.