Brussels, 3 April 2008
Nature protection: Commission sends final written warning to Hungary over bird protection laws, closes Finnish wolf hunting case
The European Commission is sending Hungary a final written warning for not putting in place national measures for implementing an EU environmental law on the protection of wild birds. The Commission is also closing a case against Finland on the granting of permits for wolf hunting because it considers that Finland has complied with a 2007 European Court of Justice ruling.
Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “It is absolutely vital for Member States to safeguard the biodiversity of our continent. European nature legislation is designed with the future in mind: by implementing directives designed to protect animals and habitats, Member States are protecting the economies of tomorrow. I very much welcome Finland's compliance with the Court judgement.”
Final warning letter to Hungary for failure to protect wild birds
The Commission is sending Hungary a final written warning over shortcomings in its application of the Wild Birds Directive. Under the directive, Member States are obliged to ban activities that may threaten these birds. But Hungary has failed to properly implement several articles of the directive into national law.
The Commission sent a first warning letter in April 2006. Replies sent by Hungary in 2006 and 2007 show that a number of legislative measures adopted have addressed many of the issues raised, but that a number of others still remain. The articles of the directive that are still not properly implemented into national law concern the taking of eggs in the wild and specific prohibitions for the hunting of certain species. In addition, in relation to the hunting of woodcock (Scolopax rusticola), Hungarian laws do not comply with the Wild Birds Directive because they provide for a hunting season which overlaps with the reproduction, rearing and migratory stages of these species.
The Commission is therefore sending Hungary a final written warning.
Finnish case on the hunting of wolves closed
The Commission is closing the wolf hunting case against Finland following the adoption of new rules for the hunting of wolves. In June 2007 the European Court of Justice ruled that Finland had breached the directive on the conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora by granting permits for the hunting of wolves which failed to specify the conditions under which they could be hunted.
Over the past few years the wolf population of Finland has extended its territory from its traditional areas in the eastern parts of Finland (Kainuu and North Karelia regions) to the central and western areas of the country. Wolves – which are estimated to number between 250 and 300 in Finland -- are strictly protected under the Habitats Directive. Following the ECJ ruling Finland adopted legislation which clarified the rules on the granting of permits to hunt wolves. Finland has also demonstrated through case studies that the hunting of wolves on a preventive basis can limit attacks on domesticated animals.
On the basis of the new rules to protect wolves the Commission considers that Finland has complied with the ECJ ruling and can thus close the case.
Article 226 of the Treaty gives the Commission powers to take legal action against a Member State that is not respecting its obligations.
If the Commission considers that there may be an infringement of EU law that warrants the opening of an infringement procedure, it addresses a "Letter of Formal Notice" (first written warning) to the Member State concerned, requesting it to submit its observations by a specified date, usually two months.
In the light of the reply or absence of a reply from the Member State concerned, the Commission may decide to address a "Reasoned Opinion" (second and final written warning) to the Member State. This clearly and definitively sets out the reasons why it considers there to have been an infringement of EU law and calls upon the Member State to comply within a specified period, normally two months.
If the Member State fails to comply with the Reasoned Opinion, the Commission may decide to bring the case before the European Court of Justice. Where the Court of Justice finds that the Treaty has been infringed, the offending Member State is required to take the measures necessary to conform.
Article 228 of the Treaty gives the Commission power to act against a Member State that does not comply with a previous judgement of the European Court of Justice, again by issuing a first written warning (“Letter of Formal Notice”) and then a second and final written warning (“Reasoned Opinion”). The article then allows the Commission to ask the Court to impose a financial penalty on the Member State concerned.
 Directive (79/409/EC) on the conservation of wild birds.
 Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora