Brussels hauls Malta to European Court of Justice again over finch trapping derogation

Once again, Malta has been referred to European Court of Justice over government’s authorisation of the trapping of finches on the pretext of scientific research

Finches (File photo)
Finches (File photo)

The European Commission has referred Malta to the European Court of Justice for authorising the trapping of finches in yet another case concerning the issue.

The Commission has not bought government's reason for the derogation to allow the live capture (trapping) of seven species of wild finches on the pretext of scientific research. The Brussels executive is arguing the derogation violates of the Birds Directive and Treaty Obligations.

A 2018 ECJ verdict had stopped finch trapping in Malta, but government had tried to skirt the judgment by applying a research derogation in 2020.

In 2021, the Commission also decided to refer Malta to the Court of Justice, for failing to apply the Birds Directive “by incorrectly applying a derogation regime and authorising the trapping of protected finches for research purposes.”

At the time, the Commission considered that, even though the declared objective is ‘research', several elements indicate that the scheme, in practice, allows for a large number of birds to be captured without being reported, contrary to the strict conditions for derogations set by the Birds Directive.

"Although Malta repealed the incriminated legislation in early October, it did not allay the Commission's concerns: the trapping licences for the 2021 season had already been issued on the basis of the repealed 2020 framework, and new rules have been swiftly adopted with only minor changes compared to the previous legal regime," the Commission had said.

Court action in 2021 was preceded by the Commission's reasoned opinion that deemed Malta's trapping derogation as "unsatisfactory".