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European Commission - Press release

Commission refers France to the Court of Justice over its failure to protect wild birds

Brussels, 8 December 2016

Commission refers France to the Court of Justice over its failure to protect wild birds.

The European Commission is taking France to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to address continued violations of EU legislation on the conservation of wild birds (Directive 2009/147/EC). Member States are obliged to ensure that all provisions of the Birds Directive are respected, including with regard to deliberate killing or capture.

The Birds Directive prohibits activities that directly threaten birds, such as their deliberate killing or capture, destruction of nests and removal of eggs, and associated activities (e.g., trading in live or dead birds) with special emphasis on the protection of habitats for endangered and migratory species.

This Commission action follows a reasoned opinion sent to France in June 2016. The ortolan bunting is a migratory bird species in decline in Europe, and the aforementioned illegal practices are strictly prohibited under EU legislation on the conservation of wild birds. Despite earlier commitments by the French authorities, illegal practices relating to the deliberate killing or capture of the ortolan bunting continue. These activities in France jeopardise the conservation efforts undertaken by other Member States. Therefore, to urge France to correctly enforce the Birds Directive on the ground, the Commission is taking this matter to the Court of Justice of the EU.


The status of the ortolan bunting (Emberiza hortulana)in the EU is reported as unfavourable in the official data submitted by Member States under Article 12 of the Birds Directive (Directive 2009/147/EC). The whole EU population has very seriously declined over the past 30 years. This negative status and trend were confirmed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)Red List of Threatened Species for birdsin Francein September 2016, where the IUCN category for the ortolan bunting in France has changed from vulnerable to endangered species, with an increased risk of extinction.

The populations of many species of migratory and native European wild birds are in decline. The EU has introduced policies to reverse this trend through banning certain practices, and introducing protective and habitat management measures.

Member States must take action to maintain the populations of endangered species at a level, which is in line with ecological, scientific and cultural requirements, while taking into account economic and recreational needs.

For More Information

-   General information on infringements proceedings in the areas of Environment.

-   On the key decisions of the December infringements package, please refer to the fullMEMO/16/4211.

-   On the general infringements procedure, see MEMO/12/12(an info graph).

-   On the EU infringements procedure.



Press contacts:

General public inquiries: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 67 89 10 11 or by email

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