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REPLY FROM THE EU COMMISSION - GÜNTER VERHEUGEN REPLIED ON BEHALF OF MARGOT WALLSTRÖM, COMMISSIONER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

EUROPEAN COMMISSION

Günter Verheugen

Member of the European Commission

 

Brussels, 29 November 2002

 

 

Dear Mr  Van der Berg,

Thank you for your e-mail of 10 October 2002 to Commissioner Wallström and myself.

In agreeing to the recent EU Common Position on the environmental chapter, Malta has accepted to fully transpose and implement the Birds Directive by the date of accession. This means that bird hunting in Malta can, as from accession, only take place within the limits provided for by the directive. As you are aware, Article 9 of this directive allows, where there is no other satisfactory solution, for exceptions under certain very stringent conditions.

If Malta wishes to allow spring hunting, for instance in relation to certain species like turtle dove and quail, it would need to ensure that all the requirements of Article 9 are met and that permitting is carried out under strictly supervised conditions and limited to small numbers only. Furthermore, the use of Article 9 is subject to monitoring by the Commission and Malta is committed, in such a case, to report each year on its possible use.

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.

We should also recognise that the accession of Malta to the EU, by bringing it into conformity with the common standards defined in the Birds Directive and already applied in all Member States, will provide a greatly strengthened framework for bird protection on the island and a safeguard for our shared heritage of wild birds.

In the past two months, the European Commission has answered several written questions from the European Parliament related to the negotiations on wild birds directive with Malta. Commissioner Wallström has undertaken to keep the Parliament informed of developments through the Environment Committee, and I update regularly the External Relations Committee of the Parliament on the development of accession negotiations. Written information was sent to the Chairman of the Committee in October 2002.

 

Yours sincerely,

- signed -

Günter Verheugen

The PROACT reply - sent by email and post 09.12.2002

[Why not send an individual reply - or use the text below - to Margot Wallström? Email/Fax addresses are:
 
 
Fax: +32 2 2981899
 
Postal address as in reply below]

 

HUNTING OF BIRDS ON MALTA IS A EUROPEAN ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEM

 

Margot Wallström

Commissioner for the Environment

Rue de la Loi 200 / Wetstraat 200

B-1049 Brussels 

Belgium

09 December 2002

 

Dear Commissioner Wallström

 

We have received a response from Commissioner Verheugen concerning our campaign against the exceptions granted to Malta for spring hunting in the EU accession negotiations. We have replied to Mr. Verheugen; but wish to enlist your support for further clarification of the matter; and an assurance of positive action to ensure that, in future, Malta complies in full with the relevant EU legislation.

 

The fact that trapping and caging of finches on Malta will continue over the next seven years is a sad reflection on the modern social ethic and respect for nature which the European Union, and you in particular as Commissioner for the Environment, represent.. The continuing perversion of breeding captive strains of naturally occurring species to the same end is unacceptable. It is inconceivable that such practices, with EU concurrence, should be encouraged after 2011. Please reconsider your position on this matter.

 

Commissioner Verheugen has also stated that the derogation for spring hunting of turtle doves and quail is subject to "strict conditions". These species 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?

 

Mr Verheugen also assured us 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. We are very sceptical about this assurance for the following reasons.

 

Up to now, the Maltese government has proved incapable of monitoring its own hunting population. Visiting tourists and conservationists have witnessed this slaughter at first hand regularly. The hunters go about their bloody business openly, even arrogantly; and are abusive and threatening to those they perceive as opponents. They massacre, twice a year, large numbers of protected bird species, 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? 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 alone has either the will or resources to ensure that this barbaric and illegal spectacle becomes a thing of the past.. Skilled, independent and dedicated individuals could help to redress this balance.

 

We herewith offer the services of our organisation, or alternatively its individual members as concerned and informed ornithologists, as part of an identifiable EU monitoring team during the migration windows on Malta.

 

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 capitulation to the strident hunting minority.

 

The 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.

 

We hope that you, as the responsible EU commissioner, show a more positive reaction to our concerns for the conservation of the European environmental heritage: for all European citizens - and for our descendants.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

David Conlin

Proact International

 

and the following members of the Proact Team representing