a new impulse to curb hunting on malta is required – the european union must force the pace of compliance with legislation
Recent utterances from Brussels are causing concern among MEPs and those who have long campaigned for a complete stop to hunting and trapping of birds on Malta.
These suggest that the European Commission might to be toning down its stand on spring hunting in Malta and has officially admitted that the government had discussed an exemption from a specific article of the Birds Directive during accession negotiations.
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas made the admission in reply to a series of thorny questions submitted by 14 MEPs from various political groups represented in the European Parliament.
While restating that the Commission did not grant an exemption to Malta, Mr Dimas acknowledged that the Commission was aware of the existence of a document, drafted in 2002, which makes unambiguous reference to Malta’s intentions to seek a derogation for the hunting of turtle dove and quail in spring.
“The Commission is also aware that the Maltese government has mentioned in its derogation report under article nine of the Birds Directive that during Malta’s accession negotiations, agreement had been reached that Malta would apply for a derogation under article nine of the Birds Directive for the taking of two species in spring.”
In his reply, Mr Dimas referred MEPs to the text of the EU common position – often quoted by the government to justify its position when attacked on this issue – which clearly lays down that the issue was discussed in detail between the government and the EU.
Mr Dimas added that the Commission took note of the progress made by Malta in complying with the Birds Directive and mentioned the examples of recent changes in hunting regulations, increased sanctions, reinforced cooperation with the police and educational programmes.
However, he said the Commission was also aware of enforcement problems due to limited resources.
He added that the Commission was discussing with the Maltese authorities potential areas of cooperation to support better enforcement, such as possible EU assistance for training programmes aimed at enhanced enforcement efficiency.
This is not the strong line that we have been campaigning for over the past few years and not what many EU citizens (and many others worldwide) expected after Malta’s accession to the EU.
We must resist any policy of appeasement and continue to lobby the EU to take a firm stance on implementation of European legislation.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
The EU Commission and the European Parliament must be lobbied time and again and encouraged to take positive steps to officially observe, record and act on the excesses by Maltese hunters and the apathy, inaction or plain ineffectivness of the Maltese authorities. We must not relent in our activity until Malta is a bird hunting-free zone.
A draft text is available below. Send it (or one with your own concerns and suggestions – some tips here) via the link provided – or by post or fax – to the EU Commissioner for the Environment Stavros Dimas.
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EUROPEAN LEGISLATION MUST BE STRICTLY ENFORCED ON MALTA
EU Commissioner for the Environment
Mr Stavros Dimas
Dear Commissioner Dimas,
I/we have taken a critical interest in the hunting problem on Malta for many years. The accession of Malta to the EU was seen as a chance to harmonise Maltese laws with those of Community countries, in particular the Bird Directives and, by promoting better law enforcement, signal the long-awaited end to the illegal bi-annual slaughter of migrant bird species.
Many concerned professional and amateur ornithologists, and not least ordinary bird and nature lovers in the EU and elsewhere, are increasingly in doubt as to whether the EU will retain its firm stance on the matter. Recent statements by yourself and the Maltese Government, on the subject of the derogation for spring hunting of Common Quail and Turtle Dove give cause for concern.
Whether or not the matter was discussed during accession negotiations, or that the Government of Malta now intends to apply for the derogation, is irrelevant. The point at issue is: will the EU refuse any exemption on spring hunting for Malta? The consequence of acceding to any request on Malta’s part will be pressure from other Mediterranean countries (France, Italy and Spain) for similar exemptions. The Bird Directives will then be no more than a political fig leaf.
We ask you, as EU Commissioner for the Environment, for an unambiguous answer – and a clear public statement – on this matter.
As far as enforcement is concerned, it is clear that there is a long way to go before illegal hunting and trapping practices are stamped out on Malta. Why is this taking so long? Malta is a relatively small country and operations against such illegal activities, in places and at times which can be well forecast in advance, should not be difficult to plan and implement. Successful actions against illegal hunting and trapping in the much more difficult and wide-ranging terrain of the Brescia Mountains in Italy or on Sardinia by the police and conservation organisations show that “where there’s a will there’s a way”.
In November 2005 the EU reminded Malta of its obligation to implement and enforce certain laws by February 2006. These were:
A complete spring ban on finch trapping, as the transition period agreed was only for autumn trapping.
The curtailment by a month of the open season at sea (currently it is from 1st October to 29 February) to the end of January.
Observation of a speed limit when shooting at sea.
Information received from Maltese citizens indicates that the changes have not yet been applied – let alone enforced.
You are aware that Malta has enforcement problems due to limited resources and you are discussing with the Maltese authorities potential areas of cooperation to support better enforcement, such as possible EU assistance for training programmes aimed at enhanced enforcement efficiency. What are the “concrete areas of cooperation” under discussion? How will the EU “assist with training programmes” and who will carry them out? Has any consideration been given to harnessing the efforts of the many conservation NGOs within the community and funding training, implementation and enforcement programmes run by professionals who have first-hand experience?
I/We would be grateful for an answer to the above questions at the earliest opportunity.
(Name and address)
Commissioner for the Environment
Fax: + 322 2981899