MP asks if government prepared to take trapping season to EU court

Parliament debates the budgetary allocation for the Ministry for the Environment

A hawfinch, bought in Sicily for €10 or €20, is easily sold for €150 in Malta
A hawfinch, bought in Sicily for €10 or €20, is easily sold for €150 in Malta

Nationalist MP Charlo Bonnici has asked government whether it was ready to take the trapping issue to the European Court after the European Commission contested the controversial opening of finch trapping.

Finch trapping is prohibited under EU legislation on the conservation of wild birds.

“Malta can now risks paying hefty fines for this decision and the government should tell us what its position is and what has its reply to the Commission been. One also asks whether the government is prepared to take the matter to the European Court,” Bonnici said.

Addressing parliament during the debate on the financial allocation for the Ministry for the Environment, Bonnici said a number of measures and initiatives announced in the budget were “half-hearted, incoherent and lacking in serious planning”.

He argued that, pending the MEPA demerger, the authority’s environmental arm was lost while the government steamed ahead with decisions eating away ODZ areas.

“The government has allowed abuses to go ahead, at instances by individuals who should know better,” he said, referring to the illegal works carried out a property belonging to Minister Helena Dalli and her husband.

During his budget speech, the finance minister announced that eco-contribution for electronic and white goods will be removed in order to incentivise operators to adhere with environment laws regulating waste collection.

“What government didn’t say was that there already existed waste collection schemes exempting operators from eco-contribution. The government is now offering a scheme for all operators to sign up to. What will happen to those operators who fail to take part in the scheme? How will the government ensure that everyone is in line?”

Turning his attention to air pollution, Bonnici said that, undoubtedly, traffic was one of the biggest sources of pollution on the island. “Although the government has announced measures that should tackle this problem, most probably the desired effect will not be obtained,” he said, adding that government should not have reduced the grants for scrapping old cars.

He echoed the Opposition leader’s suggestion that government should provide transport to students.

“Moreover, government failed to uphold its pledge to have a gas-fired power station operating from March 2015 onwards.”

Taking the floor, PN MP and Opposition’s spokesman for animal welfare Michael Gonzi questioned why the parliamentary secretary for animal rights was agreeing to the finch-trapping season.

“It’s a parody where animal activists were arraigned in court while birds, whose right is to fly free, are being trapped and held in cages for a lifetime. A government that gives rights to certain animals, while taking away from others.”

Gonzi said animal welfare was not just about increasing tents for horses but also about providing shelter for stray animals, supporting NGOs, enforcing the law and providing training to workers at the Animal Welfare Directorate.

He asked what government was doing to ensure that zoos in Malta – licensed and unlicensed – respected the law and that the necessary safeguards were all in place.

During his intervention, fellow MP Censu Galea expressed concern over the government’s decision to introduce a 15c excise on Maltese wine, which would negatively impact local wine producers.

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