The European Commission is referring Malta to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) over its decision to allow finch trapping on its territory as of 2014.
The case concerns Malta's decision to allow the live capture (i.e. trapping) of seven species of wild finches as from 2014. In the EU, the capture and keeping of bird species like finches is generally prohibited. However, Member States may derogate from the strict protection requirement if there is no other satisfactory solution, and if the derogation is used judiciously, with small numbers and strict supervision. As these conditions are not met in this case, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice in October 2014, urging Malta to refrain from finch trapping. Despite this warning, Malta went ahead as planned with the opening of a finch trapping season in 2014. The Commission, therefore, sent a reasoned opinion in May 2015, urging Malta to end the practice. Malta has replied, contesting the Commission's analysis. Since Malta has not committed to end finch trapping, the Commission has, therefore, decided to refer Malta to the Court of Justice of the EU.
In Europe, many species of wild birds are in decline, and markedly so in some cases. This decline disturbs the biological balance and is a serious threat to the natural environment. Directive 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds aims to protect all species of wild birds that occur naturally in the Union. The Directive bans activities that directly threaten birds such as deliberate killing or capture, destruction of nests and removal of eggs, and associated activities such as trading in live or dead birds, with a few exceptions. It also places great emphasis on the protection of habitats for endangered and migratory species, especially through the establishment of a network of Special Protection Areas (SPAs).
Article 9 of the directive provides limited scope for derogations from the requirement of strict protection where there is no other satisfactory solution, for instance, in the interests of public health and safety or air safety, to prevent serious damage to crops, livestock, forests, fisheries and water, and for the protection of flora and fauna. Derogations may also be permitted for the purposes of research and teaching, repopulation, reintroduction and for the breeding necessary for these purposes.
Malta was allowed a transitional arrangement in the Accession Treaty to phase out finch trapping, taking into account the time required to establish a captive breeding programme. The transitional arrangement expired in 2008.
The case concerns the live capture of seven species: chaffinch Fringilla coelebs, linnet Carduelis cannabina, goldfinch Carduelis carduelis, greenfinch Carduelis chloris, hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes, serin Serinus serinus and siskin Carduelis spinus.
For more information:
On the September infringement package decisions, MEMO/15/5657.
On the general infringement procedure, see MEMO/12/12.
For more information on infringement procedures: http://ec.europa.eu/eu_law/infringements/infringements_en.htm