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EU commission warns Malta government over Spring hunting

QuailThe European Commission today expressed concern that Malta's new framework legislation seeking to permit spring hunting does not comply with the ruling given by the European Court.

The Commission warned the Malta Government to comply with the ruling or risk being taken back to court where the Commission will ask for the imposition of financial penalties.

In a statement issued in Brussels the Commission said:

"In 2009, the European Court found that Malta, by permitting the spring hunting of turtle doves and quails in 2004-2007, had failed to implement the Birds Directive properly. The Commission is concerned that new framework legislation seeking to permit spring hunting in future years does not comply with the Court ruling. It has therefore decided, at the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, to issue a Letter of Formal Notice under ongoing infringement proceedings. If the necessary actions are not taken by the Maltese authorities, the Commission may decide to take Malta back to Court to request financial penalties."

The Commission observed that on 10 September 2009, the Court of Justice ruled that Malta, by permitting the spring hunting of turtle doves and quails in 2004-2007, had failed to implement the Birds Directive properly. The Court had particular concerns about proportionality.

In April this year, Malta informed the Commission about the adoption of framework legislation that would permit the spring hunting in future years of a maximum of 25,000 birds (12,000 quail and 13,000 turtle doves), with a three-week hunting season.

"An in-depth appraisal has led the Commission to conclude that the principle of proportionality is not being respected in Malta's plans. The Birds Directive effectively bans spring hunting to protect birds during their most vulnerable period. The Court of Justice ruled that any derogation from this ban must be proportionate with the overall conservation objectives of the Birds Directive," the Commission said.

"The Commission is concerned that the framework for Malta's spring hunting legislation for future years does not comply with the Court ruling because it fails to fully address the principle of proportionality. Three main reasons are:

"There is no obligation to consider the conservation status of the species in question when setting bag limits;

"There is no provision to consider the possibilities for autumn hunting in that year before opening a spring season; and the maximum limits established in the legislation do not suffice to ensure the maintenance of the population of the species concerned at a satisfactory level."

As a result, the Commission added, it considers that Malta has not complied with the ruling by the Court of Justice.

It warned that while a letter of formal notice was being issued to Malta, if the necessary actions were not taken by the Maltese authorities, the Commission may decide to take Malta back to Court to request financial penalties.

International Animal Rescue has been involved in the protection of migtratory birds in Malta for more than 20 years and welcomed the decision by the Commission.

Officially there has been no comment from the Government so far but reliable legal sources put it that Malta will be asked to change the framework legislation published by government last April allowing a three-week season in spring when 25,000 turtle doves and quail can be hunted.

The Commission will be giving Malta two months to react and make the necessary changes.