Separate warning letters for other nature cases are being sent to Cyprus and Bulgaria.
The Cyprus case, which was opened in 2007, concerns a failure to designate a sufficient number of protected areas for birds. The Commission is also concerned about environmental impact assessments made in the Rila Mountains in Bulgaria prior to the development of ski resorts there.
“Natura 2000, Europe’s network of protected areas is the envy of the world – but adequate protection is vital, because its integrity must be protected,” said EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas. “The Canary Islands are home to numerous species found nowhere else in the world, and these must be preserved, so I call on Spain to take the necessary measures to protect these areas as soon as possible.”
Spain had until December 2007 to adopt the required conservation measures, but almost two years after the deadline the situation is still not resolved.
The Macaronesian islands (such as the Canary Islands) were never part of a continent, so the native plants and animals reached the islands via long-distance dispersal. The islands contain unique ecosystems particular to these volcanic regions, and many of them – including coastal lagoons and laurel forests – are under threat. Despite representing only 0.3% of the EU territory, the region hosts almost 20% of its most important habitat types and 28% of its protected plants, many of them endemic to the islands.
BIRD PROTECTION IN CYPRUS
In June 2007, Cyprus received a first written warning from the Commission over its failure to designate a sufficient number of areas for protection of wild birds. The Commission noted major shortcomings in nine out of sixteen areas considered important for birds, and while there has been some progress, a number of serious gaps remain. A final written warning points out in particular that three of the nine areas of concern (Paralimni Lake, Oroklini Lake and Akamas peninsula) still lack any designation, and that six other areas are still much smaller than the requirements of the legislation.
Cyprus will now be required to provide scientific justifications to explain the discrepancies, and has two months to reply.
RILA MOUNTAINS IN BULGARIA
The Commission is sending a first written warning to Bulgaria about the development of ski infrastructure in the Rila Mountains and the potential impact on the sites designated as part of the Natura 2000 network there. The Commission is concerned that some of the developments in question were authorized by the national authorities before any proper assessment of their impact and cumulative effects on protected species and habitats had been carried out. A similar problem was previously identified in the Pirin Mountains. In both cases the Commission aims to fully assess the situation and to ensure that the sites are properly protected.
November 20, 2009 – www.financialmirror.com