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European Commission - Press release

Environment: Commission urges Italy to comply with court rulings on nature protection

Brussels, 24 November 2011 – The European Commission is asking Italy to comply with three court rulings on a number of failures to provide adequate protection for wild birds. Wild birds are protected in Europe under the Birds Directive , and on three occasions (in 2008, and twice in 2010), the EU Court of Justice has found that Italian law falls short of EU standards in this area. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is sending a letter of formal notice, asking Italy to make good the shortcomings.

Two of the rulings concern hunting. On 15 May 2008 the Court ruled against Italy as Liguria had adopted and applied regional legislation authorising hunting of common starlings and chaffinches. Similarly, on 11 November 2010 the Court again ruled against Italy, finding that the Veneto region had adopted regional legislation authorising hunting of the Italian sparrow (Passer italiae), Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus), the great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), the chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), the brambling (Fringilla montifringilla), the common starling (Sturnus vulgaris) and the Eurasian collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto), contrary to the provisions of the Birds Directive.

Liguria subsequently amended its legislation and stopped issuing hunting derogations, but in September 2011 it adopted more local legislation for the 2011-2012 hunting season that again breaches Italy's obligations under the Birds Directive. The Veneto region too amended its regional legislation in the wake of the ruling, correctly transposing the directive, but the region has continued issuing hunting derogations in breach of Article 9 of the Directive.

The Commission is therefore sending two letters of formal notice. Given the urgency of the situation (the hunting season in Veneto and Liguria ends, respectively, on 31 December 2011 and on 31 January 2012), the letters set a one-month time limit for the Italian authorities to reply.

In a separate case brought by the Commission regarding the transposition and application of the Birds Directive at national level and in several other regions (including Lombardy, Puglia, Lazio and Tuscany), the Court found a number of general failings in Italy's transposition of the Birds Directive. Italy then adjusted its legislation, but information available to the Commission shows that several breaches have not yet been solved. In particular, the system enabling the Italian government to ensure that regions do not issue hunting derogations in breach of the Directive is still ineffective. Problems also remain at local levels, as the Lombardy and Puglia regions have continued to issue hunting derogations in breach of the Directive.

A letter of formal notice is therefore being sent. Italy has two months to reply.


The Birds Directive creates a comprehensive scheme of protection for all wild bird species naturally occurring in the Union. Its was adopted in 1979 as a response to increasing concerns about declines in Europe's wild bird populations due to pollution, habitat loss and unsustainable land use. The Directive recognises that wild birds, many of which are migratory, are a shared heritage, and that effective conservation requires international co-operation.

The directive places great emphasis on the protection of habitats for endangered as well as migratory species, especially through the establishment of a coherent network of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) comprising all the most suitable territories for these species. Since 1994 all SPAs have been part of Natura 2000 , the EU network of protected natural areas.

The Birds Directive bans activities that directly threaten birds, such as the indiscriminate killing or capture of birds, the destruction of their nests and taking of their eggs. The Directive recognises hunting as a legitimate activity and provides a comprehensive system for the management of hunting (limited to certain species listed in Annex II of the Directive) to ensure that this practice is sustainable. Hunting is banned, for instance, during periods when birds are most vulnerable.

Further information

For further information on EU nature policy and the Birds Directive, visit:

For current statistics on infringements in general:

See also:


Contacts :

Joe Hennon (+32 2 295 35 93)

Monica Westeren (+32 2 299 18 30)

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