Greece guilty of infringing European conservation law
BirdLife International welcomes today’s decision of the European Court of Justice which found Greece guilty of breaching European nature conservation law. According to the European Court, Greece failed to designate a sufficient number and area of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds as required by the EU Birds Directive.
The EU Birds Directive declares that each Member State has to designate the most appropriate areas for the protection of birds as SPAs. BirdLife International’s inventory of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) provides a reference list for this, as confirmed once more by the European Court today. In Greece, SPA designation is lacking both in number of sites and area of coverage. More specifically, Greece currently has 196 IBAs of which only 40% has been designated as SPAs under the EU Birds Directive. Therefore, the European Court has ruled today that Greece has to close this gap and designate the remaining sites.
The Court also ruled that Greece has to do more to protect twelve species among which are Krueper’s Nuthatch Sitta krueperi, the Mediterranean subspecies of European Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii, Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus and Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus.
Many people still believe this is about fencing-off strictly protected areas. In reality however, these sites are open to people and land use, as long as the conservation objectives are taken into account. —Xenophon Kappas, Director of the Hellenic Ornithological Society
All EU countries have shown commitment to implementing the EU’s nature legislation and to work towards the EU-wide target of halting biodiversity loss by 2010. It is widely agreed that achieving this target is also crucial if we want to buffer the negative effects of climate change, but as the Court ruling shows, more needs to be done.
“The performance of Greece regarding the implementation of the Birds Directive is unfortunately really poor. Let us not forget that Greece has active cases in the European Court of Justice, regarding also the conservation status in designated SPAs and the proper integration of the EU Birds Directive in National law”, warns Xenophon Kappas, Director of the Hellenic Ornithological Society (BirdLife Partner, Greece).
A recent BirdLife analysis published in Science magazine showed that the European Union’s Birds Directive has made a significant difference in protecting many of the continent’s most threatened birds from further decline. Still though, several bird species in Greece, like Lammergeier, Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus and Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus are under severe threat and are relying on the protection provided by European law in order to ensure their survival.