Sounding the alarm for possible referral of Cyprus to the EU court
The future of wild birds in Cyprus and the prevention of a penalty from the European Union are now at the hands of the Plenary of the Cyprus Parliament, which is meeting on Friday, 9 June 2017. More specifically, ‘The Protection and Management of Wild Birds and Game Species (Amendment) Law of 2016′ has been submitted for voting. Environmental NGOs are calling on the Plenary to vote against this specific law amendment which was prepared and submitted by the Game and Fauna Service.
The proposed law amendment introduces a series of relaxations and loopholes in the existing legislative framework without achieving any updating and modernisation of the Main law. As a result, these relaxations 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, at a time when these illegal activities are on the increase and the Republic of Cyprus is already under investigation by the European Commission on this issue.
One of the worrying proposed amendments is the on-the-spot fine regulation for all offences. Instead of referring offenders to court and issuing court penalties – as is currently the case – the enforcement agencies will be issuing on-the-spot fines for all offences. Considering the circumstances where on the spot fines will be issued, there is real concern whether the game wardens would issue on the spot fines of the order of 2,000 euros and more out in the fields. The two trade union organizations for game wardens (PEO and SEK) submitted a joint letter to Parliament on 20/10/2016 expressing deep concern about this amendment, stating inter alia, that “this amendment will affect the undertaking of their duties and above all their safety”.
Moreover, if the amendment is voted through by the plenary next Friday, it will be practically impossible to effectively control the illegal offer of game in restaurants. In particular, the proposal suggests the consumption of pre-cooked game by the hunters which is to be brought to the restaurant for their own consumption. Such a provision will be very difficult to control and we believe that it will exacerbate the problem of illegal supply and trade of ambelopoulia and other game species. The illegal offering of wild birds in restaurants is already under the European Commission’s watchful eye who has repeatedly called up on the Republic of Cyprus to take effective enforcement action against this.
An equally alarming amendment proposal is the separate regulation of the use of limesticks. In particular, the proposal calls for differentiation of on the spot fines for the offence of possession and use of up to 72 limesticks, with the proposed fine being only 200 euros. Such an adjustment would give an indirect message of decriminalization of the use of limesticks as well as relaxation of the penalties that regulate this offence.
We believe that the proposals included in the proposed law amendment are in breach of the Birds Directive (2009/147/EC), and very likely puts at risk Cyprus being referred to the EU Court for non-compliance with this Directive and the imposition of penalties.
It is worth noting that France has recently been referred to the European Court of Justice for its failure to comply with the provisions of the Birds Directive, while the Commission has repeatedly asked the Government of Cyprus to take effective action, as required by the Directive, to end the illegal, non-selective and large-scale trapping of wild birds in Cyprus.
BirdLife Cyprus, the Cyprus Conservation Foundation Terra Cypria, Friends of the Earth Cyprus, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) and the Foundation Pro Biodiversity (SPA) call on the Plenary to vote against the proposed law amendment and are sounding the alarm in order to avoid the possibility of Cyprus being referred to the European Court of Justice. The environmental organisations are also calling on the public to mobilise via the online campaign (Facebook, Twitter) so as to inform as many members of the public as possible on this issue.
What is needed is the strict implementation of the existing legislation and the demonstration of clear political will to seriously combat poaching and illegal bird trapping, which constitute an ecological disaster while at the same time creating a very negative image for Cyprus. We must not forget the thousands of nature lovers who would like to visit our island, but choose different destinations due to the serious problem of illegal bird trapping.