European Court condemns Spain over nature law
Brussels, Belgium – The European Court of Justice today found Spain guilty of breaching European nature conservation law. According to the Court, Spain failed to designate sufficient Special Protection Areas (SPAs) as required by the EU Birds Directive  in seven of its regions, namely Andalusia, the Balearics, Canaries, Castilla-La-Mancha, Catalonia, Galicia and Valencia.
Spain, like other EU countries, has shown commitment to implementing the EU’s nature legislation and to work towards the EU-wide target of halting biodiversity loss by 2010. But as the Court ruling shows, more needs to be done. Several bird species, like the Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni (60% of the European population resides in Spain) or the Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata which only exists on the Canary Islands in the EU, are under severe threat from human activities and are reliant on protection under European law in order to ensure their survival.
The EU Birds Directive declares that each Member State has to designate the most appropriate areas for the protection of birds based on biological criteria. 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 the case of Spain, IBAs cover 31.5% of the country’s territory, while so far only 18% has been designated as SPA under the Birds Directive. Therefore the European Court has ruled today that Spain has to close this gap and designate the remaining sites.
"BirdLife International recognises that Spain has already taken important steps to protect its unique natural heritage, but more needs to be done.." —Clairie Papazoglou, Head of BirdLife's European Division.
Alejandro Sánchez, Director of SEO/BirdLife (BirdLife in Spain), warns that: “Many unique sites still need to be designated and enlarged. Only then can we ensure the protection of rare and threatened species such as Spanish Imperial Eagle and steppe birds like Dupont’s Lark.”
Clairie Papazoglou, Head of the European Division at BirdLife International in Brussels, welcomes the decision of the Court and states that: “We are pleased that our list of Important Bird Areas for Spain has been validated once again by the European Court. BirdLife International recognises that Spain has already taken important steps to protect its unique natural heritage, but more needs to be done, as this Court ruling clearly shows.”
Yesterday the Commission stepped up its actions against infringements of bird protection laws by taking Germany, Austria and Poland to the European Court and by sending first warning letters to eight countries of the new EU Member States. Cyprus also received a first warning letter by the Commission for breaching the hunting provisions in the Birds Directive as it allowed spring hunting on the Turtle Dove last May. 
Octavio Infante, IBA Officer. SEO/BirdLife, +34 914 340910
Konstantin Kreiser, EU Policy Manager of BirdLife International, Brussels, +32 (0)2 2800830
 The Birds Directive and Special Protection Areas: The EU Birds Directive requires Member States to designate Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds to ensure the survival of the EU’s most threatened bird species and migratory birds.
SPAs form part of the ‘Natura 2000’ network of the EU, a modern conservation concept which, on about 18% of the EU’s territory, aims to reconcile human activities with nature conservation. Natura 2000 sites are not fenced-off areas, but encourage sustainable and nature friendly land-use and business.
 BirdLife International is a global alliance of conservation organisations working in more than 100 countries and territories. BirdLife is the leading authority on the status of birds, their habitats and the issues and problems affecting them (website: www.birdlife.org). SEO/BirdLife is the Spanish BirdLife Partner (website: www.seo.org).
BirdLife International’s Important Bird Areas (IBA) programme is a global initiative that aims to protect a network of sites critical for bird conservation. All IBAs meet one or more ornithological criteria, which are internationally agreed and scientifically defensible. In the EU, IBAs form a ‘shadow list’ for SPAs which governments have to designate under the EU Birds Directives.
 For more information on these infringement cases, please see BirdLife International’s media release of June 27th 2007: Commission puts its foot down on "failing" EU Member States
Background information: ‘Wellbeing through wildlife in the EU’
This new BirdLife publication with a foreword from Commission President Barroso shows how long-term economic development relies on environmental resources and functioning ecosystems, how access to green space improves physical and mental health and how education in the natural environment benefits current and future generations. The publication contains twenty-six case studies from across the EU. Download: http://wellbeing.birdlife.org