BirdLife Europe: ‘Malta making a mockery of Birds Directive derogation’

‘Finch trapping season is not in line with the Birds Directive and Malta is making a mockery of the terms of their accession treaty,’ BirdLife Europe’s senior head of EU policy, Ariel Brunner, says

jeanelle_mifsud
Jeanelle Mifsud
13 February 2017, 11:36am
The European Commission has argued that the traditional Maltese use of clap nets is ‘non-selective’, and that trapping birds for leisure does not constitute a ‘judicious’ reason to derogate
The European Commission has argued that the traditional Maltese use of clap nets is ‘non-selective’, and that trapping birds for leisure does not constitute a ‘judicious’ reason to derogate
BirdLife Europe has criticised the Maltese government for its decision to open a third finch trapping season in breach of the European Birds’ Directive, saying that the country “is making a mockery of the terms of their accession treaty” to the European Union.

When Malta joined the bloc in 2004, a ban on finch trapping was one of the conditions of the accession treaty, as trapping of all birds is prohibited by EU law. The practice was phased out and eventually banned in Malta in 2009, in line with its EU accession treaty, however, the Labour government in 2014 reintroduced the trapping of seven species of wild finches – on the assumption that it can justly derogate from EU law in a similar fashion to spring hunting.

When applying the derogation, the government had argued that an article in the EU Birds Directive allows EU member states “where there is no other satisfactory solution… to permit, under strictly supervised conditions and on a selective basis, the capture, keeping or other judicious use of certain birds in small numbers.”

MaltaToday reported on Sunday that the Maltese government had, however, ignored legal warnings by the Attorney General that the derogation ran counter to the spirit and purpose of the Birds Directive and that in the event of infringement proceedings Malta’s legal arguments were “inherently weak.”  

In September 2015, the European Commission officially referred Malta after the government ignored its formal warnings as part of an Infringement Procedure launched after the reinstatement of the trapping season.

The Commission – spearheaded by former Labour minister Karmenu Vella – has argued that the traditional Maltese use of clap nets is “non-selective”, and that trapping birds for leisure does not constitute a “judicious” reason to derogate, and there are suitable alternatives.

The European Court of Justice will hold the hearing on Wednesday.

BirdLife Europe said that it remains concerned about the validity of both the derogation for the trapping of seven species of finch, as well as the one for the trapping of Golden Plover and Song Thrush.

“Finch trapping season is not in line with the Birds Directive and Malta is making a mockery of the terms of their accession treaty,” BirdLife Europe’s senior head of EU policy, Ariel Brunner said. “Even more concerning is the fact that despite the legal action taken by the European Commission the Maltese Government decided to reopen another trapping season in 2016. This was the third season in breach of the European Birds’ Directive.”

While supporting the action pursued by the European Commission, BirdLife Europe noted that the efforts of BirdLife Malta had led to an increase in environmental conscience on trapping and hunting issues among locals.