EU issues final warning to Malta about spring hunting
BirdLife International welcomes the decision by the European Commission to send Malta a final written warning (‘Reasoned Opinion’), regarding the practice of spring hunting of wild birds, which is illegal under EU law. Every spring since its accession to the EU in 2004, Malta has permitted hunting of Turtle Dove and Common Quail, in direct contravention of the EU Birds Directive.
Based on a complaint by BirdLife, the Commission started legal action against Malta in 2006 but progress was slow. Earlier this year, the European Parliament had called on the Commission “to redouble its efforts to persuade the Maltese authorities to comply fully with Community law”.
BirdLife International and BirdLife Malta have continuously campaigned against spring hunting in Malta. The Maltese Islands are located on an important bird migration route in the Mediterranean. The EU Birds Directive specifically protects birds by banning hunting during their spring migration back from Africa to their breeding grounds throughout the European Union. A recent study analysing the ring recoveries in Malta, showed that birds originating from a minimum of thirty-six European countries fly over Malta each year.
“We are pleased to see firm action now coming from the Commission on this,” said Konstantin Kreiser, EU Policy Manager at BirdLife in Brussels. “The Commission needs to be tough on this case, therefore we also welcome Commissioner Dimas’ statement in his blog earlier this week saying Malta will be taken to the Court if spring hunting isn’t stopped.”
“We are pleased to see firm action now coming from the Commission on this” —Konstantin Kreiser, EU Policy Manager at BirdLife in Brussels
BirdLife fears if the Commission is not firm enough here other countries could follow Malta’s example and the EU’s credibility could be seriously undermined.
BirdLife now calls on the Maltese government to respond to the Commission’s warning by officially declaring the end of spring hunting in Malta, for 2008 and beyond. If it fails to do so, BirdLife will urge the European Commission to apply to the European Court of Justice for an immediate order.
Tolga Temuge, CEO of BirdLife Malta added: “Allowing another spring hunting season in 2008 despite clear warning from the Commission, would not only mean that the Maltese government does not want to fulfil its obligations as an EU member but would also be a slap in the face of its citizens who are overwhelmingly against spring hunting.”
“Moreover”, he continued, “every open spring hunting season has been used as a cover by many Maltese hunters to shoot protected species, many of which are threatened with global extinction, such the Lesser Kestrel, Pallid Harrier and others.”