Brussels, 6 April 2011
Environment: Commission urges Hungary to comply with European nature protection legislation
The European Commission has asked Hungary to address the inadequate protection of nature in an area that is home to globally threatened bird species. The Commission has concerns about an aerial power line erected in autumn 2007, which is liable to have a significant negative impact on protected species. No impact assessment was undertaken for the project, contravening EU legislation. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is therefore sending Hungary a reasoned opinion. If Hungary fails to comply within two months, the Commission may refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.
The Hungarian authorities have authorised the construction of an aerial power line in Felső-kiskunsági szikes puszták és Turjánvidék, an area protected by the EU Birds Directive. The 1400m power line passes through an area inhabited by several endangered bird species, including the globally threatened Great Bustard (Otis tarda).
The power line runs through an area that was previously part of a LIFE-Nature project (ref. LIFE04 NAT/HU/000109) set up to conserve the Great Bustard in Hungary, which was co-financed by the Commission. The project specifically aimed to reduce key factors in adult mortality, notably by removing dangerous sections of power lines crossing traditional display or wintering grounds. The power line therefore also appears to be incompatible with the objectives of this project.
The Commission started infringement proceedings in 2008, and the case was subsequently closed in early 2010 when the Hungarian authorities agreed to remove the dangerous sections of the power line by April 2010. But the Commission has learned that the necessary works have not been implemented, and a reasoned opinion under EU infringement procedures is therefore being sent.
Europe's nature is protected by two key pieces of legislation, the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive. Under the Birds Directive, Member States are obliged to designate all of the most suitable sites as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) to conserve wild bird species. The Habitats Directive requires Member States to designate sites of Community Importance (SCIs) for the conservation of natural habitat types, and to protect various listed species. Together, SPAs and SCIs form the Natura 2000 network of protected areas, which is the EU's most important instrument for conserving natural habitats and the animal and plant species they contain.
LIFE+ is the European financial instrument for the environment and has a total budget of €2,143 billion for the period 2007-2013.
For current statistics on infringements in general see:
See also MEMO/11/220