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ENVIRONMENT: LEGAL ACTION FOR NON-COMPLIANCE WITH WILD BIRDS AND HABITATS DIRECTIVES.

France.The Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion (second written warning) to France concerning inadequate protection of an important bird site at Basses Corbi?res because remedial measures that France has taken following a judgement of the European Court of Justice are still inadequate. On December 7, 2000, the Court ruled (Case C-1998/374) that France had failed to designate the bird site adequately as an SPA and to protect it as required under the Wild Birds and Habitats Directives.The Commission has also decided to send a reasoned opinion to France concerning rare grassland habitats in the Vosges mountains in the North East. Under the Habitats Directive, this area should be a priority for conservation and France should be proposing sites within that area for inclusion in the EU-wide Natura 2000 list of protected animal, plant and bird sites established under that Directive. These habitats are threatened by the development of new vineyards.Portugal.The Commission has decided to send Portugal a reasoned opinion following its investigation into a complaint about the damage done to a bird site at the Ria de Aveiro, an SPA under the Wild Birds Directive, by a 4 kilometre-long dyke. The potentially damaging effects of the project were not assessed beforehand, and evidence points to a subsequent loss of biodiversity and a reduction in the value of the SPA as a nesting and feeding site for a large number of wild bird species.--The Wild Birds Directive is the EU's oldest piece of nature conservation legislation. It creates a comprehensive scheme of protection for Europe's wild bird species. There are a number of separate but related components to this scheme. One relates to habitat conservation, and includes a requirement to designate Special Protected Areas (SPAs) for migratory and other vulnerable wild bird species. A second consists of a series of bans imposed on activities that directly threaten birds (such as the deliberate destruction of nests and the taking of eggs) and associated activities such as trading in live or dead birds. A third component establishes rules that limit the number of species that can be hunted and the periods during which they can be hunted (hunting seasons should not include periods of greatest vulnerability such as the return from migration, reproduction and the raising of young birds). Rules also define certain permitted methods of hunting (for example, non-selective hunting methods). For the second and third components, derogations (i.e. exceptions) are possible provided they meet strict requirements and provided no other satisfactory solution is possible.--Italy.The Commission has decided to send Italy a first written warning because Italy has not amended its legislation concerning wild birds following a decision of the European Court of Justice last year (Case C-1999/159). On May 17, 2001, the Court found against Italy because Italian legislation permits the capture and keeping in captivity of three species of wild bird, passer italiae, passer montanus and sturnus vulgaris. Under the terms of the Wild Birds Directive, none of these species can be hunted unless the Council authorises a special exception.In addition, the Commission has referred Italy to the Court of Justice because Italian legislation used to implement the Habitats Directive is narrower in scope than the Directive. The Italian legislation unjustifiably reduces the range of potentially damaging projects which require prior assessment and approval where they will have an impact on Natura 2000 protected sites.Ireland.The Commission has decided to send Ireland a letter of formal notice because it has failed to comply adequately with a Court of Justice ruling concerning the designation of protected sites. On September 11, 2001, the Court ruled that Ireland had failed to send the Commission the complete list of proposed protected sites required under the Habitats Directive by the June 1995 deadline established under that Directive (Case C-1999/067). Ireland has considerably increased its list of sites compared to the date on which the Court based its judgement (February 1998). However, there are still significant omissions from the list in the area of raised bogs, salmon rivers and offshore cold-water coral reefs.Spain.The Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion to Spain because of an irrigation project that will affect the Villafafila SPA for wild birds in the province of Zamora in Castilla y Leon. The Commission's latest information indicates that the project will affect approximately 12% of the surface area of the SPA (which is important for steppic birds). It appears that Spain has not in this case complied with the rule in the Habitats Directive that projects affecting SPAs must receive prior assessment and approval.Germany.The Commission has decided to refer Germany to the Court of Justice because aspects of German federal and state hunting legislation contravene the Wild Birds Directive. Both federal and state regulations allow the hunting of certain species during periods of migration and reproduction, which is contrary to what the Directive says.--The Habitats Directive envisages a protection scheme for a range of animals and plants as well as a selection of habitat types. It provided for the creation, by June 1998, of a network of protected sites known as Natura 2000, which will embrace SPAs designated under Wild Birds Directive and sites proposed under the Habitats Directive. A set of safeguards will apply to all sites in the network. These include prior assessment of potentially damaging plans and projects, the requirement that these plans and projects only be approved if they represent an overriding interest and only if is no alternative solution exists, and measures for fixing compensation in the event of damage. Once fully in place, this network should ensure that the best examples of the Community's natural habitats, as well as areas hosting rare and endangered plant and animal species, are properly conserved and protected. The Habitats Directive is the Community's flagship contribution to safeguarding global bio-diversity. Delays in the submission of site proposals by Member States (originally due by June 1995) have meant that the establishment of Natura 2000 has fallen seriously behind schedule.--Austria.The Commission has decided to refer Austria to the Court because a golf course extension has caused damage to habitats of the globally endangered corncrake, Crex crex, in the Enns Valley. In the Commission's view, the Government of the state of Styria did not, when approving the extension, take sufficient account of the nature impact assessment which it had carried out in accordance with the Habitats Directive. The latest evidence is that corncrake numbers have severely declined in the Valley.Luxembourg.The Commission has sent a reasoned opinion to Luxembourg due, first, to its failure to designate a number of bird sites as SPAs as required under the Wild Birds Directive and, second, to ensure that designated SPAs benefit from a legal regime that provides adequate protection.
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Publication:European Report
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EU
Date:Mar 16, 2002
Words:1136
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