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Brussels, 27 January 2011

Environment: Commission urges Romania to comply with European nature protection legislation

The European Commission has asked Romania to address the inadequate nature protection in Sulina in the Danube Delta, one of Europe's most important wetland areas. The Commission has concerns about shortcomings in procedures to assess the potential impact of tourism development in the area, which is part of the Natura 2000 network. The Commission's request, on the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, takes the form of a reasoned opinion under EU infringement procedures.. If the Romanian authorities fail to inform the Commission within two months of measures taken to ensure compliance with EU law in this respect, the Commission may refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

The Romanian authorities have authorised a project to develop tourism facilities in the Danube Delta on the Black Sea coast of Romania. The Sulina beach development project involves recreation areas, a first aid point, and communications infrastructure in an area that is part of the Natura 2000 network, and which is protected under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives. The Commission has found deficiencies in the environmental impact study carried out to consider potential negative effects of the project for local habitats and bird species. Projects such as these are permitted in Natura 2000 only if it is certain they will not adversely affect the integrity of the site concerned, or if there is an overriding public interest and compensatory measures are taken. If the environmental impact study is deficient, the required certainty cannot exist and the project cannot be given the green light. The Commission also believes that the works will have a negative effect on a number of protected habitats and species.

The Commission asked for clarifications from Romania in May 2010 (see IP/10/526). Although the Romanian authorities have provided further additional information on the potential impact of the projects, the Commission considers that the assessment provided by the national authorities does not remove concerns about the significant negative effects of the works proposed. Data available to the Commission shows that the project has already had a negative effect on one endemic species  (Centaurea Pontica) protected under the Habitats Directive, and on a protected habitat (Mediterranean salt meadows). The Commission is therefore sending Romania a reasoned opinion under EU infringement procedures


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.

For current statistics on infringements in general see:


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