European Commission refers France to the Court of Justice

On 8 December 2016 the European Commission announced through a press release that it is taking France to the EU Court of Justice for failing to address continued violations of the legislation on the conservation of wild birds.

The Birds Directive (2209/147/ΕC) prohibits activities that pose a threat to birds, such as deliberate killing or capture, destruction of nests and removal of eggs, and associated activities with special emphasis on the protection of habitats for endangered and migratory species. All Member States have the obligation to ensure that all provisions of the Birds Directive are respected.

Ortolan buntings (Emberiza hortulana) continue to be illegally trapped in France. The Ortolan bunting is a migratory species with declining numbers in Europe. Despite earlier commitments by the French authorities, the illegal killing of Ortolan buntings continues. As stated in the press release of the European Commission: ‘These activities in France jeopardise the conservation efforts undertaken by other Member States. Therefore, to urge France to correctly enforce the Birds Directive on the ground, the Commission is taking this matter to the Court of Justice of the EU’ (for the full press release, please click here).

Parallels can be drawn between France and Cyprus, as both countries are failing to take the necessary measures against illegal bird killing. In Cyprus, the Game and Fauna Service proposed a catastrophic hunting law amendment. The proposed law amendment essentially introduces a series of relaxations and loopholes in the existing legislative framework without achieving any updating and modernisation of the main law. These proposals would be disastrous for the sustainable management of game and the conservation of wild birds, and completely ineffective with regards to better combating of poaching and illegal bird trapping in Cyprus, if passed by the Cyprus Parliament. We believe that proposals included in the law amendment are in breach of the Birds Directive and/or are relaxations to the existing legislation (you can read the position letter that BirdLife Cyprus submitted to the Environment Committee here, in Greek only). 

The referral of France to the EU Court of Justice puts an end to the myth that other European countries allow hunting under derogation. Spain has already been convicted by the European Court of Justice, in case ‘C79/03 Commission of the European Communities vs Kingdom of Spain’(dated 9th December 2004) for permitting the use of limesticks as traditional practice for the trapping of song thrush species in the Valencia region. Will Cyprus be the next Member State to be taken to the EU Court of Justice, for failing to protect endangered and migratory species?


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