The European Commission’s infringement procedures against Cyprus echo the longstanding positions and concerns of NGOs over failures on nature protection issues.
The European Commission has launched infringement procedures against Cyprus for failing to comply with the EU Directives for nature protection. This comes only one month after an assessment published by environmental NGOs revealing Cyprus’s failure to protect nature adequately. Once again, environmental organizations are justified in their views and assessments, as the Commission has opened infringement proceedings for environmental issues and insufficient protection of Natura 2000 sites.
Environmental Impact Assessment:
For almost a year, the Commission has been calling on Cyprus to transpose into national law the amendments to the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (2014/52/ΕU). These new amendments highlight the binding nature of the Appropriate Assessment process for Natura 2000 sites. In other words, before any approval, projects and programs must be assessed for possible negative impacts on protected species or habitats. Although the deadline for harmonization with this new Directive was a year ago, the Directive has not yet been transposed into the national law. Despite pressures from environmental NGOs, the current legislation is still under review by the House of Representatives. As a result, the Commission is now sending Cyprus a Reasoned Opinion on this issue, a formal request to comply with EU law, calling our country to inform the Commission of the measures it has taken, within two months. If Cyprus fails to comply, it will most likely be referred to the European Court of Justice.
Designation of protected areas:
The Commission has also sent a letter of Formal Notice to Cyprus for failing to ensure adequate protection of its species and habitats through the designation of Natura 2000 areas. The letter stresses that Cyprus has not designated a sufficient number of offshore marine Special Protection Areas. In the letter of Formal Notice, the Commission asks Cyprus to explain about this breach. Cyprus has two months to respond. If the answers are unsatisfactory, the Commission may send a Reasoned Opinion– leaving Cyprus one step away from being referred to the European Court of Justice.
In view of these developments, BirdLife Cyprus and Terra Cypria – The Cyprus Conservation Foundation stress that Cyprus is at a tipping point. The timing is anything but accidental, given the developments that are being proposed or that are in progress within or near protected areas. A recent problematic example are the residential developments in the Sea Caves area in Akamas. The proposed development of the large-scale casino-resort at Fasouri in Limassol is also another example of a project that may affect the species and habitats of a protected area. The project is being proposed next to the most important wetland of the island, Akrotiri Salt Lake, and also within an area that has been recognized as an Important Bird Area and which should therefore have been designated as a Natura 2000 site for its outstanding importance for the Red-footed falcon Falco vespertinus.
BirdLife Cyprus and Terra Cypria point out once again the urgent need for the effective protection and management of Natura 2000 sites, with the correct implementation of the European Directives being key.