EU Commissioner Vella Has Taken a Stand for Europe’s Nature | WWF
EU Commissioner Vella Has Taken a Stand for Europe’s Nature

Posted on 25 July 2019

14 cases against 9 countries for breaching EU Nature Directives
25 July 2019, Brussels, BelgiumEuropean Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella has taken a stand for Europe’s precious nature. WWF has been urging Commissioner Vella to use the last months of his mandate to step up efforts to implement and enforce the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, and leave a lasting legacy for nature. Today, he did just that.

In one final round of infringement decisions, the European Commission has taken legal action regarding 14 cases against 9 different countries for breaching the Nature Directives.
Greece will finally be taken to court for failing to establish conservation measures for its Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) - Natura 2000 sites designated under the Habitats Directive. This is positive news for all SACs in Greece, especially for Zakynthos, and for all other major loggerhead sea turtle nesting beaches. Without effective conservation measures SACs remain merely paper parks. 

Poland is being issued with a Reasoned Opinion (the second step of the infringement procedure) because changes in Polish law undermine the protection of important species and their habitats in its forests. The main problems are that forest management activities such as logging are exempt from species protection requirements in Poland, and access to justice is not provided with regards to forest management plans. The Reasoned Opinion is the result of a complaint filed by WWF and two other NGOs in January 2017.   

As “the guardian of the Treaties,” the European Commission is responsible for enforcing EU Nature Directives and for referring governments to the European Court of Justice when laws are breached. Although within the EU the Commission is truly nature’s last line of defence, it has not been proactive on enforcement in recent years. Cases that needed decisive action have been delayed, getting stuck and even closed while the problems on the ground lingered.  

“Today’s infringement decisions are a strong signal to Member States that the Nature Directives cannot be disregarded any longer. Biodiversity is in crisis and it needs to be taken seriously. When Member States fail to take actions to protect nature, the Commission must step in and enforce the rule of law. Commissioner Vella has seized the opportunity to seal his legacy for nature by holding the Member States to account. The new Commission must build on today’s decisions and make implementation and enforcement of nature legislation a top priority,” said Sabien Leemans, Senior Biodiversity Policy Officer, WWF European Policy Office

Further Information
Edel Shanahan
Communications Assistant, Biodiversity
WWF European Policy Office
+32 484 49 35 15
Nature Alert