More EU states face court over habitats law

Seven countries accused of failing to notify Natura 2000 conservation areas

The European Commission announced yesterday that it plans to take legal action against seven member states for failing to comply with a 1992 EU directive on habitats conservation.

Infringement proceedings are to be started against Denmark, Ireland, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands for failing to provide the Commission with a "complete and definitive" list of habitats considered to be of "European importance" by the June 1995 deadline specified in the directive.

The directive aims to create an EU-wide network of such sites - under the heading Natura 2000 - which are to be given special protection. The Commission describes Natura 2000 as "the EU's flagship contribution to safeguarding global biodiversity" and one of its "most ambitious environmental initiatives".

Its decision to start infringement proceedings is said to reflect a concern that despite "encouraging efforts" by several countries in the last year, "the establishment of Natura 2000 [by a deadline of June 1998] remains seriously behind schedule".

According to the Commission, Ireland and Luxembourg have not yet notified it of any definitive sites, giving the reason that national consultations are ongoing. Finland is said to have submitted "a partial definitive list", but much of its list is also said to be subject to consultation.

Germany's list only covers some of its states, while the list sent by the Netherlands is said to "fall seriously short of completeness".

France and Denmark were each sent warnings of legal action in the last year. The Commission notes that France has made "welcome progress" since its warning last October, but "much still remains to be done".

Denmark too has made "important progress". But the Commission considers that although it has notified sites for the Atlantic biogeographical region, Denmark's failure to do likewise for the Continental biogeographical region is a "significant omission".

Earlier this month, the Commission announced several other cases of legal action against member states for failing to comply with the habitats directive and another on the protection of birds (ENDS Daily 2 April).

Follow Up:
European Court of Justice, tel: +352 43031.

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