EU Australia Online - News & information from the capital of Europe direct to Australian businesses

Power to Save the Environment?

  • October 18th, 2006
  • Posted by 7thmin

stellers-eider.jpgA small sub-Artic duck has become the latest focus of moves to put legal force behind protection of the environment in Europe.

The European Commission has started legal processes against six of its member governments to enforce agreed environmental standards.

It has told Finland it must implement a standing decision of the European Court of Justice, to protect the habitat of the Steller’s Eider.

The threatened species has a wintering ground on islands in the Aaland Archipelago, left out of protected areas set up for wild birds protection; a projected wind farm there has also been listed as a potential danger to birds.

The move against Finland is part of a flexing of legislative muscle on the environment in which Brussels last week (Friday 13.10.06) announced a package of interventions:

· Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia have been told to tighten up their national laws on Environmental Impact Assessments for major development projects.

Lawyers for the central authority have decided that these individual states fail to meet their obligations to regulate work that may have a significant impact, like new motorways, industrial projects or urban development.

In some cases they have cited “gaps and deficiencies” in the law over the definition of “projects”, or found that it gave too many exemptions; creating problems, e.g. with extraction of groundwater supplies, or threats to nature conservation.

· Spain has been accused of allowing a motorway project without controlling a danger to wildlife, specifically a cat, the Iberian Lynx, and with failing to enforce the law against illegal hunting of birds.

· In a further move the European Commission has told Ireland it should hurry up action it was already taking to declare more protected nature sites, in line with a decision the European Court five years ago.

It wants progress on extra sites for protection of wetlands, bog woodlands, Killarney fern, salmon, and freshwater crayfish and herrings; it has also demanded better progress on restoration of lands damaged by over-stocking of sheep.

Environmental protection across borders has had some success, with Brussels announcing this time the closure of legal actions against Germany and Ireland, where Court judgments on nature protection have been complied with. Another nine states are still facing legal action.

Under European law, member governments not meeting their obligations are served with Notices and later formal warnings, ahead of possible action in the Court of Justice, which can require them to make changes in implementation of their laws.

(Picture: USWFS, Robert Suydam)