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European Commission ‘in contact’ with Malta over enforcement effectiveness

Brussels ‘not yet informed’ over government’s decision to open spring hunting

Miriam Dalli
27 March 2013, 12:00am

The European Commission is in contact with the Maltese authorities with a view to identify further steps that might be available to improve the effectiveness of enforcement during the spring hunting season, set to open on April 10.

In comments to MaltaToday, the European Commission's environment spokesman confirmed that, to date, the Commission has not been informed of the government's decision to open a spring hunting season.

According to the spokesman, Malta is expected to inform the Commission two weeks before the hunting season opens.

Therefore, the Commission has not put forward any conditions on the Maltese Government in this respect.

On Monday evening, Parliamentary Secretary for animal rights Roderick Galdes confirmed the spring hunting season dates opening on 10 April until 30 April. The government has also waived off the €50 special licence fee while bag limits have been retained as last year's: 11,000 turtledoves and 5,000 quails.

The Commission's spokesman added that it was the sole responsibility of the Member States wishing to apply a derogation to ensure that all the strict conditions laid down in the EU's Birds Directive are met.

"Moreover the Members States applying a derogation must report to the Commission on the implementation of the conditions set out in the Birds Directive," the spokesman said.

In other words, Malta must now justify to the Commission that all the conditions for that derogation have been met.

In this context Malta will have also to demonstrate that the limits of the derogation have been observed and that the beneficiaries of the derogation have fully abided by the relevant restrictions introduced in relation to the Spring hunting derogation.

Meanwhile, the Commission has been presented with a report on the outcome of the spring hunting seasons opened in 2011 and 2012. The report was presented by BirdLife.

"The Commission would observe that these reports portray a different scenario that what is described in the official reports received from the Maltese Government," the spokesman told MaltaToday.

"In particular BirdLife's reports raise doubts as to the effectiveness of the enforcement system established for the spring hunting derogation in Malta." Therefore the Commission is in contact with the Maltese authorities with a view to identify further steps that might be available to further improve the effectiveness of enforcement.

On a number of occasions in the past, the Commission has raised the issue of illegal killing of protected species with the Malta authorities.

"Whilst the Commission recognises that in recent years Malta has taken certain measures to address this issue (e.g. by revising the national legal framework pertaining to the penalties for hunting offences), illegal killing of protected birds during the spring and autumn migration in Malta remain a matter of concern," the spokesman said.

The European Commission is expecting the government to take all the necessary law enforcement measures to eliminate these activities.

Judgement of the European Court of Justice

The judgment of the Court envisages the possibility of a limited spring hunting derogation of Turtle Dove and Quail under strictly supervised conditions in view of the specific circumstances prevalent in Malta.

The measures related to a Spring hunting season are provided for in Malta's Framework Regulations (LN221/10, as amended), which were subject to extensive discussions between the Commission services and the Maltese authorities at the time.

These Regulations appear to ensure compliance with the Court's judgment and the conditions for derogation set out in the EU's Birds Directive (Article 9). In particular the Regulations currently in force in Malta state that if during any particular autumn hunting season, the number of caught Turtle Doves and Quail reaches a specific limit, then Malta would not apply a derogation to allow hunting during the following Spring season.

Moreover, the Regulations have introduced a number of controls in relation to a Spring hunting season (including bag limits and quotas, restrictions pertaining to time and place and a range of reporting requirements).
Miriam Dalli joined in 2010 and was assistant editor fr...
peter rogers
@C.P.Zammit "now the eu must come into terms that there is a labour government in office". The EU Commission doesnt care whether Malta has PN, PL or Ajkla in office, what it cares that rules and laws are strictly observed and enforced. It is very mistaken to think that the birds passing over Malta are negligible, especially when they are rare or protected species (which Maltese hunters so like to shoot).As for fox hunting, thankfully this is now illegal in UK, and bull fighting is banned in Barcelona and 33 Catalan provinces, and more are following.
Anthony Pace
@charles philip zammit, What nonsense, the shooting of birds is even more cruel, god knows how long the poor creatures would have travelled and then they get shot.
John Zammit
now the eu must come into terms that there is a labour government in office and whats good for the english, french, italian, and other eu hunters is good for the maltese. we cannot punish the maltese hunters just to show that we are holier than thou. after the number of birds passing over malta is negligible and their shooting is not as cruel and the hunting of foxes, and wild boars and deers or the killing of bulls in spanish arenas