EU states warned over nature law reporting

Nine countries to receive formal notices for failure to submit habitats, birds, directives reports

The European Commission today announced a swathe of legal actions against member states for failing to comply with parts of the EU's two main laws on nature conservation - the 1979 wild birds directive and the 1992 habitats directive.

Commissioners decided on Wednesday to send formal notices to nine countries for failing to comply with reporting requirements under the two directives. It points out that the reports are vital to helping it monitor implementation and assess practical problems with the directives. In addition, they are necessary to enable the EU to fulfil obligations under international nature conservation treaties such as the Bern Convention.

Under the habitats directive, countries are required to provide general implementation reports to the Commission every three years - reports are now overdue for the period 1993-1995. Under the wild birds directive, countries are supposed to submit two-yearly reports on any derogations granted from its provisions - reports are now due for 1994-1996.

Five countries - Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Portugal - have failed to provide reports under both directives, the Commission says. While another four - Ireland, Denmark, Germany and Spain - have failed to provide reports only under the habitats directive.

Previously, the Commission has taken action against the majority of member states for failing to notify lists of protected sites intended to enable the creation of an EU-wide Natura 2000 network of conservation areas.

In June, the Commission took the unusual step of recommending fines of Ecu105,000 per day against the French government for failing to comply with a previous European Court of Justice judgement against it for the same offence (ENDS Daily 25 June). Last December, the Commission announced it was taking further legal action against Greece for failing to notify measures to implement the habitats directive - despite a court ruling against it in 1997 (ENDS Daily 16 December 1997).

In May, the European Court ruled that the Netherlands had "manifestly failed" to designate a sufficient number of special protection areas under the wild birds directive - a judgement greeted as a "big victory" by conservation groups (ENDS Daily 19 May).

Today's announcement follows the Commission's latest quarterly infringement meeting at which decisions are taken on legal action. News of further decisions from the meeting are expected over the next few days.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111.

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