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Brussels, 24 June 2010

Environment: Commission welcomes Spanish compliance with bird protection rules; infringement procedure closed

The European Commission has welcomed appropriate action by the Spanish authorities in a case where Spain had been in breach of its obligations under EU nature protection rules, and has closed the infringement procedure. The case concerns a long running dispute with Spanish authorities over the designation of areas for the protection of birds, after numerous shortcomings identified by the Commission have finally been resolved. The EU's Court of Justice had ordered Spain to comply with the legislation in question, and a considerable expansion of protected areas means that the case can now be closed.

The case, open for more than a decade, concerns protected areas for birds, one of the cornerstones of Europe's Natura 2000 network, in numerous areas in Spain. Andalusia, the Balearics, and the Canaries, Castilla-La Mancha, Catalonia, Galicia and Valencia did not offer adequate protection for species listed in the Birds Directive. The failings were confirmed by a ruling from the Court of Justice in 2007, which ordered Spain to make good the shortcomings.

Good progress was made in Castilla-La Mancha and the Canary Islands, but slower progress in the other regions meant that the Court judgment could not be regarded as fully implemented. The case continued, with the Commission pressing Spain to implement the ruling in full. But in recent months new protected areas have been introduced in some of the affected regions, and existing ones enlarged in others. The Commission is therefore satisfied that the ruling has been fully implemented, and the case has now been closed.

For current statistics on infringements in general:

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