and Commonwealth Office
29 November 2002
Dear Mr Heywood,
Thank you for your e-mail to Mr Hain of 1 October regarding bird protection and Malta's accession to the EU. As the officer dealing with EU/Malta relations,
I have been asked to reply on Mr Hain's behalf. Please accept my sincere apologies
for my late reply.
We attach great importance to the protection of birdlife in Malta. As you noted, several of Maltas current bird trapping and hunting practices are incompatible with EU law. As part of their negotiations
to join the EU, the Maltese government requested a number of transition, or grace periods, with regard to complying with the
Birds Directive. After lengthy persuasion, Malta has asked for only one transition period, meaning that the rest of the Directive will be implemented
in full on accession. Their request is for Malta to be allowed five years after they accede (until the end of 2008) to phase out the trapping
of seven types of finch. The Maltese say that the phasing out of this practice
is necessary to set up a captive breeding system and will also reduce the risk of illegal trapping.
The UK government expressed serious concerns on offering Malta a transition period. We want Malta in the EU but in full compliance with EU law as soon as possible.
In the face of overwhelming support amongst other Member States for offering a transition period, we sought tougher
proposals on how Malta would enforce such a phasing-out programme. We have succeeded here. The EU position is much tougher than Malta originally wanted. Special mention was given to
the principles governing the timing of hunting of migratory species as outlined in the Directive, in particular that the migratory
species concerned are not to be hunted during their return to the rearing grounds.
You mentioned the taking of turtle dove and quail in Spring. The Maltese
are intending to permit these activities by means of a derogation, to which all Member States are entitled. Such a derogation is subject to strict conditions, which the EU spelt out clearly in its agreement with
UK officials worked hard to make the current EU position much tougher than Maltas starting position. It represents an unprecedented
step forward in the protection of birdlife in Malta,
putting an enforceable time limit on a practice that the Maltese currently hold exemptions from (under the Bern Convention).
I hope you will agree that having Malta
inside the EU and answerable to EU law is a stronger position to be in than having them out and exempt from it. We have not lowered the standard, far from it. We believe
that locking in Malta now, bringing them in line with European standards while they phase
out existing practices, will ensure bird protection and biodiversity for the future.
The PROACT reply - sent by email and post 09.12.2002
[Why not send an individual reply - or use the text below - to Chris
Kealy? Email/Fax addresses are:
Fax: +44 (0)20 7008 3546
Postal address as in reply below]
& Commonwealth Office
SW1 A 2 AH
09 December 2002
you for your response to one of our members concerning our campaign against the exceptions granted to Malta for spring hunting
in the EU accession negotiations. It is refreshing to know that not all negotiations are purely economic in nature, and we
appreciate your attention and concern.
your letter comes across as mild, indirect and detached from the matter under discussion. The spring hunting issue is unequivocally
related to the bi-annual brutal and savage slaughter of migrant birds on the Maltese islands. This is not about a few species
of common birds, but rather the devastating effect Maltese hunting practices are having on Europe's migratory bird population
as a whole.
you correctly state, over the next seven years Maltese trappers will continue to trap the same species of small birds (seven
species of finch) which fly around in our gardens at home and land on our feeders. These birds will be kept in small cages
with little room to move, often poorly fed and watered, and sold on the market in Valetta and other towns. The rest of their
life will be spent on balconies or indoors singing for the pleasure of their 'owners'. The song can be enjoyed, and would
be heard more frequently, if these birds were left in their natural environment. As to the perversion of breeding captive
strains of naturally occurring species to the same end after 2011, which is what you and the other European governments are
agreeing to, we suggest that you reconsider your stance on this matter.
confirm that in a derogation, to which all member states are entitled, the EU has clearly spelt out the "strict conditions"
for the 'taking' of turtledove and quail. Turtle dove and quail are on the Red List in several European countries; why exactly
should Malta be granted a derogation? Just because they ask for one? And what are the strict conditions? What concession is
Malta obliged to give for such a derogation?
Verheugen has also replied to us and stated:
"I assure you that the Commission will avail itself of all the means at its disposal
in order to monitor closely Malta's respect of its commitments in this area."
to now, the Maltese government has proved incapable of monitoring its own hunting population. Visiting tourists and conservationists
have witnessed this slaughter regularly at first hand. The hunters go about their bloody business openly , even arrogantly; and are abusive and threatening to those they perceive as opponents. Their bag includes
large numbers of protected bird species, shot legally and illegally, across the whole countryside as well as in the few nature
reserves. How does the EU plan to combat the apathy of the local government and
their patent lack of control resources? We herewith offer the services of our organisation, or individual members as concerned
and informed ornithologists, as part of an identifiable EU monitoring team during the migration windows on Malta. Because
this is what it is all about. As active European environmentalists, who have followed events on Malta over many years, we
do not believe that the Maltese hunters will stop slaughtering migrating birds just because Malta is in the EU. Nor do we
believe that the Maltese government has either the will or resources to ensure that this barbaric and illegal spectacle becomes
a thing of the past. We had hoped, that by banning ALL hunting during spring migration, the EU would send a strong signal
to Malta and other European states. Instead, we fear that exactly the opposite will occur and that other current and prospective
member states will seek similar exceptions. This will inevitably lead to the watering down of the EU Bird and Habitat Directives.
Terms that are often bandied about in EU committee circles such as 'small numbers' and 'sustainable exploitation' are disingenuous,
dangerous and a sop to the vociferous hunting minority.
state of our European environment, with its dwindling natural resources, cannot tolerate any further inroads. Hunting for
sustenance or livelihood in our climes and society has long been a thing of the past. Hunting for sport or pleasure does not
fit in with today's modern global ethic and is potentially disastrous for the survival of our planet as other than a cultivated
or industrialised desert.
the hope of a more positive reaction to our concerns for the conservation of our European environment, for us and our descendants'
heritage, we remain,
and the following members of the Proact Team representing