BirdLife: Maltese government should not open trapping before European Court delivers verdict

“Make no mistake, today is a great success for our country”: BirdLife toasts EU Court’s Advocate General opinion that Malta’s hunting and trapping laws are against EU rules

The eNGO called on the government not to open this year's trapping season before a final verdict is delivered by the European Court of Justice
The eNGO called on the government not to open this year's trapping season before a final verdict is delivered by the European Court of Justice

An opinion on Malta’s finch trapping season by Eleanor Sharpston, the Advocate General at the European Court of Justice, showing Maltese laws on trapping went against Malta’s obligations under EU law, was based on “common sense” BirdLife CEO Mark Sultana said.

“Make no mistake, today is a great success for our country,” Sultana told journalists outside Parliament. “The derogation from the law happened for votes but the EU recognised this and took the right legal action.”

Sultana said BirdLife had sought the help of other EU networks and NGOs to ensure that the Commission rules against the State.

In light of the opinion, which precedes a final judgement by the ECJ, Sultana said BirdLife was calling on the Maltese government to suspend any further decisions related to bird trapping.

“It is clear the State has taken the wrong decision. We ask the Ornis committee and the government to avoid taking further decisions until the Commission’s decision is decided.”

If the Commission wins the case against the government, the hunting season, which opens on 1 October, will be closed. BirdLife estimates that this would protect over 27,000 finches across island.

The European Commission filed infringement proceedings against Malta for opening finch trapping of seven species of wild finches and the capturing of some songbirds, which is not allowed under the EU’s Birds Directives.

Advocate general Sharpston argued that Malta failed to “take the requisite measures to maintain the population of the species… while taking into account economic and recreational requirements.”

During its accession negotiations in 2004, Malta obtained a transitional derogation for finch trapping. Finch trapping was banned in Malta in 2009 but reintroduced in 2014 after pressure from hunting lobbyists such as the FKNK.

Prior to the 2013 elections, the Labour party and the FKNK issued a joint statement promising that PL will enforce a “correct derogation” in relation to finch trapping.

Both quickly changed their mind on the matter, reintroducing the pastime under the pretence that the EU Birds Directive allows member states to “permit, under strictly supervised conditions and on a selective basis, the capture, keeping or other judicious use of certain birds in small numbers”.

The article “does not give Member States carte blanche to derogate”, Sharpton said in her opinion, arguing that the purpose of the directive is to protect birds, not to regulate hunting or trapping them.

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