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Brussels, 16 February 2012

Joint statement following the meeting between Dutch Minister for Agriculture and Foreign Trade Henk Bleker and Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik

In a meeting on 16 February, Minister Bleker and Commissioner Potočnik discussed the required restoration of the protected habitat in the Western Scheldt. Commissioner Potočnik underlined that the European Commission has not yet taken a formal decision on the Dutch proposal for an alternative restoration measure.

Minister Bleker confirmed that the Netherlands does not question its obligation under EU law to restore the habitat in question.

The Commission is still finalising its analysis of the latest input from the Dutch authorities, which it received on 20 January 2012. The Commission's analysis is that the current proposal is not equivalent to the proposal from 2005 in terms of nature protection. Once the Commission's analysis has been concluded, it will decide on the way forward.

Both sides underlined their willingness and the sense of urgency to find a solution that is satisfactory from a nature protection point of view.

"We are now entering the last phase of intense discussions", Minister Bleker and Commissioner Potočnik affirmed.

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