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EU Birds Directive Action

Commission puts its foot down on 'failing' EU Member States

The European Commission took a strong stance today by stepping up ongoing infringement proceedings against ten EU Member States for failing to implement the EU Birds Directive. Together with the Habitats Directive this law forms the cornerstone of EU action to address the decline of biodiversity, which in combination with climate change is seen as the most pressing environmental problem of the 21st century. EU governments have committed to halting the loss of wildlife by 2010, and to implementing its nature legislation.

Konstantin Kreiser, EU Policy Manager at BirdLife International in Brussels stated: “We welcome the legal actions announced today, but regret that so many governments need to be forced to turn their nice words into action. We hope the affected Member States will now speed up their efforts to comply with EU legislation. We need healthy and diverse ecosystems to ensure long-term economic development. After all, this is about the wellbeing of Europeans!”

The Commission decided today to take Germany, Austria and Poland to the European Court of Justice because of insufficient designation of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) as required by the Birds Directive. It was also decided to send first warning letters on the same issue to eight more countries that joined the EU in 2004. This means that apart from Estonia, all the new Member States from the 2004 round are in legal trouble on bird protection. Cyprus will receive a first warning letter related to bird hunting.Izabela Flor, Director of OTOP, (BirdLife in Poland), declared that:“Poland’s joining the EU was not only about reaping the economic benefits of membership as one of Europe’s largest net recipients of funds but also about fulfilling our obligations to respect and implement the EU’s environmental law. Only this can guarantee the survival of the unique but threatened Polish wildlife, such as the Aquatic Warbler, White-tailed Eagle or Great Snipe. Our government should avoid being condemned by the European Court and protect the remaining sites immediately,” she added.

Commenting on the decision to take Germany to Court, Olaf Tschimpke, President of NABU (BirdLife in Germany) commented: “It’s a shame and not a good example to other Member States, that twenty-eight years after the unanimous adoption of the Birds Directive some German regions still have not designated sufficient sites. We can only welcome the decision of the Commission to refer this case to the Court.”Rastislav Rybanic, Director of SOS (BirdLife in Slovakia) was also on high alert: “The site designation process in Slovakia has ground to a halt since last autumn with important nature areas lacking protection. SPAs in Slovakia support important populations of threatened species like Imperial Eagle, Saker Falcon or Ferruginous Duck. The halt of the designation process has also meant that farmers and foresters are not able to benefit from EU Rural Development funds in Natura 2000 sites.”

Slovakia received another warning letter from the Commission for unjustified logging in the High Tatras National Park.

In addition to the above actions, the Commission today sent a first warning letter to Cyprus for not complying with the hunting provisions of the Birds Directive. Cyprus breached Community law by allowing spring hunting of Turtle Dove last May. Like Malta, which has already received a warning on this issue, the country risks being taken to European Court if it does not ban spring hunting once and for all.

4th July 2014