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Europe takes action against Malta's spring shooting

Commission won?t tolerate this any longer

BirdLife International has welcomed the decision taken today by the European Commission to open a legal infringement procedure against the Maltese government for allowing the spring hunting of European Turtle-doves Streptopelia turtur and Common Quails Coturnix coturnix. This infringement of the Birds Directive has continued to take place in Malta since its accession to the European Union in 2004.

During their exhausting return journey from Africa to their European breeding grounds, many migratory birds use Malta as an important resting place and stepping stone as they cross the Mediterranean. Despite special protection under EU law during this sensitive period, Maltese hunters are reported to kill—with the blessing of their government—thousands of quails and doves every spring.This spring hunting season not only breaches EU law, but also opens a loophole for the illegal hunting of many other, often threatened, species such as herons and birds of prey.

"BirdLife welcomes that the European Commission won’t tolerate this any longer and that it has committed itself to take legal action in case Malta does not end spring hunting," says Konstantin Kreiser, Policy Officer at BirdLife in Brussels. "This decision follows earlier judgments of the European Court against other countries and sends a clear signal that there won’t be any special treatment for Malta."

The Maltese government will now have to ensure that no spring hunting takes place from 2007 onwards, otherwise it will be taken to the European Court of Justice.BirdLife has continuously warned the Maltese government to outlaw hunting in spring, in order not to risk having the country taken to the European Court of Justice. Since EU accession in 2004, the Maltese government has opened the spring hunting season for three consecutive years in a direct infringement of the EU Birds Directive. This has given the impression to the Maltese public that their actions represent a legitimate use of a special exemption (derogation) in line with EU legislation. In fact, the Maltese government’s statistics presented to justify spring hunting as the only possible solution to hunt these species did not satisfy the Commission.

"The Maltese government made a poor case before the Commission because there is actually no excuse for the continuation of spring hunting in Malta. It is unfortunate that the consequences of this decision—ultimately a penalty could be imposed by the Court—will be borne by the Maltese public, when in fact the majority are in favour of a total ban on hunting. It is now time to improve law enforcement in Malta—the government must stop defending the illegal and immoral actions of the few at the expense of the Maltese public," said Joseph Mangion, the President of BirdLife Malta.

4th July 2014