Many constituents have contacted me regarding illegal hunting of birds in Malta. I am replying to each one, but I thought it may be useful to have the information here for anyone who has not written to me but is still interested in the situation and what is being done about it.

 

I have been in contact with my colleague, Julie Girling MEP, who sits on the Environment Committee of the European Parliament in Brussels. She, too, has been aware of the issue for some time, and has contacted the Maltese Ministry to find out what steps they are taking to prevent future breaches of the EU Birds Directive. Along with Birdlife, and other like-minded MEPs, she also went to meet Commissioner Potočnik at the European Commission, who is the Commissioner for the Environment. He reassured her that the Commission has a close and continued dialogue with Malta, but admitted in an answer to a parliamentary question that the process of ‘find[ing] solutions to existing shortcomings and gaps…and to identify ways to…strengthen enforcement…is not yet concluded’.

Malta has a derogation of the EU Birds Directive that allows hunting of turtle doves and quail. As a result of their dialogue with the Commission, Malta has agreed to monitor the autumn hunt closely, in an effort to address the situation regarding the use of permits under this derogation, and, therefore, the number of birds that are shot. Following the meeting, Commissioner Potočnik has agreed to ask Malta for details of their independent monitoring, and has asked permission for officials to be present.

It is an issue of great importance. Please be assured that the Commission is under pressure to hold the Maltese government to account, and that my Conservative colleagues and I will continue to work hard in Parliament to assure that this remains the case.

Please find below a number of parliamentary questions and responses, addressed to Commissioner Potočnik , which have been submitted in recent months.

Question - 14.2.14:

On 4/6/2013 Commissioner Potočnik gave an answer to Mr. Zanoni’s question E-004289-13 on “Spring quail and turtle dove hunting in Malta and new and repeated infringements of Directive 147/2009/EC (Birds Directive)”. This answer stated the Commission would carefully analyse the detailed derogation report submitted by the Maltese Government, alongside any other reports submitted by relevant stakeholders, to see whether the derogation was applied in line with the strict conditions of the EU's Birds Directive.

Has this analysis already been completed by the Commission? If so, what was the Commission’s interpretation? Has any further enforcement action resulted from this analysis?

 

Answer given by Mr Potočnik on behalf of the Commission (31.3.2014)

The Commission has completed its assessment of the various reports received from the Maltese government and interested stakeholders, including local hunting associations and bird conservation organisations. The results of this assessment showed conflicting views and explanations as regards the outcome of the 2013 spring hunting derogation in Malta and particularly the enforcement measures undertaken. Therefore the Commission sought further information and clarification on the matter from the Maltese authorities during an annual bilateral environmental package meeting held in November 2013.

The Commission is working with Malta to find solutions to existing shortcomings and gaps in the country's application of spring hunting derogations and to identify ways to further improve the spring hunting derogation regime and strengthen enforcement. This process is not yet concluded.

 

Question - 16.4.13 - Andrea Zanoni (ALDE)

The association BirdLife Malta recently reported (1) that the Maltese authorities have approved regulations, (2) by way of derogation from Article 9 of the Birds Directive, (3)permitting the hunting of a total of 5 000 common quail (Coturnix coturnix) and 11 000 turtle doves (Streptopelia turtur) across the island between 10 April 2013 and 30 April 2013. The derogation has been granted to all 9 487 licensed hunters; the bag limit for each hunter is two birds a day and four throughout the spring season. This will therefore equate to an average of 0.5 quail and 1.1 turtle doves for every Maltese hunter during the spring hunting season. In both cases, each hunter will easily be able to reach the bag limit as soon as hunting begins, in the early hours of 10 April.

Clearly, the regulation does not meet the conditions laid down in Article 9(1) and (2) of the directive and, in particular, the strict controls requested will not be carried out, because the Maltese regulation provides for only 7 agents per 1 000 hunters. Furthermore, the ALE unit (4) responsible for performing the hunting controls has only 18 units, which are supplemented by a few local police units during the hunting season. This figure therefore falls short of the 66 units in total stipulated by the regulation. Consequently, the total bag limits laid down are inaccurate since they will not be guaranteed by any strict controls. It is logical to assume that the actual bag limit will exceed that stipulated by various orders of magnitude.

Can the Commission urgently intervene so that extraordinary action is taken in response to the new infringement, through the launch of a special suspension procedure, via the Court of Justice of the European Union, pursuant to Articles 83 and 84 of the Court’s Rules of Procedure?

Can the Commission launch, under Article 260 TFEU and in accordance with the criteria in Commission communication (SEC(2005)1658), the procedure by which the Court of Justice of the European Union may rule that the Republic of Malta has failed to take the measures required in order to comply with the Court’s judgment, so that the Court sets the amount of a lump sum or penalty payment that is appropriate in the circumstances?

 

(1) BirdLife Malta press releases from 9 April 2013, 13 April 2013 and 15 April 2013:http://www.birdlifemalta.org/media/press/hunting/.

(2) L.N. 122 and 123 of 2013 published in the supplement to Malta Government Gazette No 19.062 of 28 March 2013.

(3) Directive 147/2009/EC.

(4) Administrative Law Enforcement.