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CAP threat to endangered birds?

Europe`s Wildlife Won`t Celebrate Enlargement

Bringing ten new countries into the European Union opens a new chapter in the continent`s history. But, as the enlargement celebrations ring out across Europe the RSPB, Europe`s largest wildlife conservation charity, and BirdLife International are warning that these countries` wildlife and landscapes could be threatened in an enlarged European Union.The new EU members will bring a valuable natural heritage: flower-rich meadows, primeval forests, and huge wetlands. Hungary and Poland, in particular, are home to several birds threatened with global extinction. The greater spotted eagle, imperial eagle, aquatic warbler, corncrake and great bustard all have important nesting populations in those countries joining the European Union on Saturday. [The greater spotted eagle and the imperial eagle will become new European Union citizens from 1 May, 2004, because, apart from occasional nesting in Finland and Greece, respectively, the birds do not nest in the current member states. The corncrake, great bustard and aquatic warbler all have important populations in the accession countries. The most recent pan-European assessment from BirdLife International shows 4,187 pairs of corncrake in the European Union compared with 70,510 pairs in the accession countries.] Although not threatened with global extinction other birds, like the white stork and the red-backed shrike, also have substantial populations in the accession countries and these birds thrive in areas of low-intensity farming.Zoltan Waliczky, the RSPB`s European Union accession officer, said: The biggest threat facing common and rare birds alike is the extension of the Common Agricultural Policy, which encourages wildlife-unfriendly farming through its subsidies, to the Eastern European accession countries. Bird surveys have shown that numbers of farmland birds have largely recovered since the collapse of the socialist regimes in eastern Europe but, with subsidies on the way, this trend is expected to reverse.

One of the symbols of eastern European wildlife is the white stork, which nests widely in the villages of eastern and central Europe [Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia are the eight mainland European countries joining the European Union on 1 May, 2004. Malta and Cyprus will accede to the EU at the same time]. Figures released by BirdLife International show that the eight mainland accession countries will bring more than 76,000 pairs of white storks to the European Union population. Currently, there are only 5,700 in north-west Europe with a further 22,300 in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece.Grahame Madge, an RSPB spokesman, said: In parts of north-west Europe, such as Denmark and the Netherlands, stork numbers have crashed over the last 70 years. Seventy years ago more than 1,100 pairs of white stork nested in the two countries, but by the 1990s there were less than 10 pairs. Similar trends have been recorded in France and Germany. During 2004 virtually every country in Europe will be counting its own white stork populations. In future, it is inevitable that as east European farmers use subsidies to increase their production by draining their land and applying chemicals, birds like the white stork will decline in the east as they have in north-west Europe. For centuries the appearance each spring of migrating white storks have been symbolised as the provider of life and good luck; will their inevitable disappearance create a new symbol of desolation?

NB In 1999 BirdLife International began a European Union accession project to address the key challenges of EU enlargement. The RSPB and Vogelberscherming (BirdLife in the Netherlands) have worked with key BirdLife partner organisations in the accession countries to help protect species and sites of international importance.

4th July 2014