Brussels, 28 October 2010
Environment: Commission requests Malta to comply with Court ruling on bird hunting
The European Commission is asking Malta to comply with a ruling by the European Court of Justice in the area of hunting birds. In 2009, the Court found that Malta, by permitting the spring hunting of turtle doves and quails in 2004-2007, had failed to implement the Birds Directive properly. The Commission is concerned that new framework legislation seeking to permit spring hunting in future years does not comply with the Court ruling. It has therefore decided, at the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, to issue a Letter of Formal Notice under ongoing infringement proceedings. If the necessary actions are not taken by the Maltese authorities, the Commission may decide to take Malta back to Court to request financial penalties.
On 10 September 2009, the Court of Justice ruled that Malta, by permitting the spring hunting of turtle doves and quails in 2004-2007, had failed to implement the Birds Directive properly. The Court had particular concerns about proportionality.
In April this year, Malta informed the Commission about the adoption of framework legislation that would permit the spring hunting in future years of a maximum of 25,000 birds (12,000 quail and 13,000 turtle doves), with a three-week hunting season.
An in-depth appraisal has led the Commission to conclude that the principle of proportionality is not being respected in Malta's plans. The Birds Directive effectively bans spring hunting to protect birds during their most vulnerable period. The Court of Justice ruled that any derogation from this ban must be proportionate with the overall conservation objectives of the Birds Directive.
The Commission is concerned that the framework for Malta's spring hunting legislation for future years does not comply with the Court ruling because it fails to fully address the principle of proportionality. Three main reasons are singled out: there is no obligation to consider the conservation status of the species in question when setting bag limits; there is no provision to consider the possibilities for autumn hunting in that year before opening a spring season; and the maximum limits established in the legislation do not suffice to ensure the maintenance of the population of the species concerned at a satisfactory level.As a result, the Commission considers that Malta has not complied with the ruling by the Court of Justice. A letter of formal notice is therefore being sent. If the necessary actions are not taken by the Maltese authorities, the Commission may decide to take Malta back to Court to request financial penalties.
Hunting rules at EU level
Hunting is regulated in the EU by the 1979 Wild Birds Directive. Although the Directive contains a general prohibition on the killing of wild birds, it does allow certain species to be hunted provided this does not happen during breeding or migration. These closed periods are critical and allow wild birds to renew their numbers. Hunting periods are set at national levels, and vary according to species and geographical location. This Directive was recently consolidated by Directive 2009/147/EC of November 2009.
For current statistics on infringements in general see: