European Commission v Slovak Republic.

JurisdictionEuropean Union
CourtCourt of Justice (European Union)
ECLIECLI:EU:C:2022:496
Docket NumberC-661/20
Celex Number62020CJ0661
Date22 June 2022

Provisional text

JUDGMENT OF THE COURT (Sixth Chamber)

22 June 2022 (*)

Table of contents


I. Legal context

A. European Union law

1. The Habitats Directive

2. The Birds Directive

B. Slovak law

1. The Law on nature conservation

2. The Law on Forests

II. Pre-litigation procedure

III. The action

A. The first complaint, alleging infringement of Article 6(3) of the Habitats Directive, read in conjunction with Article 7 thereof

1. Arguments of the parties

2. Findings of the Court

(a) Admissibility

(b) Substance

(1) Preliminary observations

(2) The first part of the first complaint, relating to FMPs

(3) The second part of the first complaint, relating to emergency felling

(4) The third part of the first complaint, relating to measures intended to prevent threats to forests and to eliminate the consequences of damage caused by harmful agents

B. The second complaint, alleging infringement of Article 6(2) of the Habitats Directive, read in conjunction with Article 7 thereof

1. Arguments of the parties

2. Findings of the Court

(a) Admissibility

(b) Substance

C. The third complaint, relating to infringement of Article 4(1) of the Birds Directive

1. Arguments of the parties

2. Findings of the Court

(a) Admissibility

(b) Substance

IV. Costs


(Failure of a Member State to fulfil obligations – Directive 92/43/EEC – Article 6(2) and (3) – Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora – Directive 2009/147/EC – Article 4(1) – Conservation of wild birds – Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) – Forest management strategies – Emergency felling – Appropriate assessment of their implications – Natura 2000 sites – Special protection areas designated for the conservation of the capercaillie – Absence of measures to prevent the deterioration of habitats and of special conservation measures in certain areas)

In Case C‑661/20,

ACTION for failure to fulfil obligations under Article 258 TFEU, brought on 5 December 2020,

European Commission, represented by C. Hermes and R. Lindenthal, acting as Agents,

applicant,

v

Slovak Republic, represented by B. Ricziová, acting as Agent,

defendant,

THE COURT (Sixth Chamber),

composed of I. Ziemele, President of the Chamber, A. Arabadjiev (Rapporteur), President of the First Chamber, and P.G. Xuereb, Judges,

Advocate General: J. Kokott,

Registrar: A. Calot Escobar,

having regard to the written procedure,

having decided, after hearing the Advocate General, to proceed to judgment without an Opinion,

gives the following

Judgment

1 By its application, the European Commission asks the Court to declare that:

– pursuant to Article 6(3) of Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (OJ 1992 L 206, p. 7; ‘the Habitats Directive’), read in conjunction with Article 7 thereof, by exempting forest maintenance programmes (‘FMPs’) and their modifications, emergency felling and measures to prevent threats to forests and to eliminate the consequences of damage caused by natural disasters from the obligation, in the event that they are likely to have a significant effect on Natural 2000 areas, that they be subject to an appropriate assessment of their implications for the relevant areas in view of the conservation objectives of those areas;

– pursuant to Article 6(2), read in conjunction with Article 7 of the Habitats Directive, by failing to take appropriate steps for the prevention of the deterioration of the habitats and of significant disturbance in the special protection areas (‘SPAs’) designated for the conservation of the capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) (SPA Nízke Tatry SKCHVU018, SPA Tatry SKCHVU030, SPA Veľká Fatra SKCHVU033, SPA Muránska planina-Stolica SKCHVU017, SPA Chočské vrchy SKCHVU050, SPA Horná Orava SKCHVU008, SPA Volovské vrchy SKCHVU036, SPA Malá Fatra SKCHVU013, SPA Poľana SKCHVU022, SPA Slovenský Raj SKCHVU053, SPA Levočské vrchy SKCHVU051 and SPA Strážovské vrchy SKCHVU028);

– pursuant to Article 4(1) of Directive 2009/147/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2009 on the conservation of wild birds (OJ 2010 L 20, p. 7; ‘the Birds Directive’), by failing to take the special conservation measures applicable to the habitat of the capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) in the SPAs designated for its conservation in order to ensure its survival and reproduction in its area of distribution (SPA Nízke Tatry SKCHVU018, SPA Tatry SKCHVU030, SPA Veľká Fatra SKCHVU033, SPA Muránska planina-Stolica SKCHVU017, SPA Volovské vrchy SKCHVU036, SPA Malá Fatra SKCHVU013 and SPA Levočské vrchy SKCHVU051),

the Slovak Republic has failed to fulfil its obligations.

I. Legal context

A. European Union law

1. The Habitats Directive

2 Article 2(2) of the Habitats Directive provides:

‘Measures taken pursuant to this Directive shall be designed to maintain or restore, at favourable conservation status, natural habitats and species of wild fauna and flora of Community interest.’

3 Article 6 of that directive is worded as follows:

‘1. For special areas of conservation, Member States shall establish the necessary conservation measures involving, if need be, appropriate management plans specifically designed for the sites or integrated into other development plans, and appropriate statutory, administrative or contractual measures which correspond to the ecological requirements of the natural habitat types in Annex I and the species in Annex II present on the sites.

2. Member States shall take appropriate steps to avoid, in the special areas of conservation, the deterioration of natural habitats and the habitats of species as well as disturbance of the species for which the areas have been designated, in so far as such disturbance should be significant in relation to the objectives of this Directive.

3. Any plan or project not directly connected with or necessary to the management of the site but likely to have a significant effect thereon, either individually or in combination with other plans or projects, shall be subject to appropriate assessment of its implications for the site in view of the site’s conservation objectives. In the light of the conclusions of the assessment of the implications for the site and subject to the provisions of paragraph 4, the competent national authorities shall agree to the plan or project only after having ascertained that it will not adversely affect the integrity of the site concerned and, if appropriate, after having obtained the opinion of the general public.

4. If, in spite of a negative assessment of the implications for the site and in the absence of alternative solutions, a plan or project must nevertheless be carried out for imperative reasons of overriding public interest, including those of a social or economic nature, the Member State shall take all compensatory measures necessary to ensure that the overall coherence of Natura 2000 is protected. It shall inform the Commission of the compensatory measures adopted.

Where the site concerned hosts a priority natural habitat type and/or a priority species, the only considerations which may be raised are those relating to human health or public safety, to beneficial consequences of primary importance for the environment or, further to an opinion from the Commission, to other imperative reasons of overriding public interest.’

4 Under Article 7 of that directive:

‘Obligations arising under Article 6(2), (3) and (4) of this Directive shall replace any obligations arising under the first sentence of Article 4(4) of [Council] Directive 79/409/EEC [of 2 April 1979 on the conservation of wild birds (OJ 1979 L 103, p. 1)] in respect of areas classified pursuant to Article 4(1) or similarly recognised under Article 4(2) thereof, as from the date of implementation of this Directive or the date of classification or recognition by a Member State under Directive [79/409], where the latter date is later.’

2. The Birds Directive

5 Article 4(1) of the Birds Directive provides:

‘The species mentioned in Annex I shall be the subject of special conservation measures concerning their habitat in order to ensure their survival and reproduction in their area of distribution.

In this connection, account shall be taken of:

(a) species in danger of extinction;

(b) species vulnerable to specific changes in their habitat;

(c) species considered rare because of small populations or restricted local distribution;

(d) other species requiring particular attention for reasons of the specific nature of their habitat.

Trends and variations in population levels shall be taken into account as a background for evaluations.

Member States shall classify in particular the most suitable territories in number and size as special protection areas for the conservation of these species in the geographical sea and land area where this Directive applies.’

6 The animal species which are the subject of special conservation measures concerning their habitat in order to ensure their survival and reproduction in their area of distribution, listed in Annex I to that directive, include the capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus).

B. Slovak law

1. The Law on nature conservation

7 The Zákon č. 543/2002 Z. z. o ochrane prírody a krajiny (Law No 543/2002 Rec. on the protection of nature and the countryside), in the version applicable on 24 March 2019 (‘the Law on nature conservation’), provides in Paragraph 4(1) and (2):

‘1. Any person carrying out activities likely to endanger, deteriorate or destroy plants, animals or their habitats shall be required to carry out those activities in such a way as to avoid their unnecessary death, deterioration or destruction.

2. If any of the activities referred to in subparagraph 1 endangers the existence of plant and animal species or causes their degeneration, disturbance of their breeding capacities or the extinction of their population, the State authority responsible for nature and countryside conservation (“authority responsible for nature...

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2 practice notes
  • Opinion of Advocate General Ćapeta delivered on 9 February 2023.
    • European Union
    • Court of Justice (European Union)
    • 9 February 2023
    ...(Foresta di Białowieża) (C‑441/17, EU:C:2018:255, punto 213), e del 22 giugno 2022, Commissione/Slovacchia (Protezione del gallo cedrone) (C‑661/20, EU:C:2022:496, punto 42 V. sentenze del 5 settembre 2019, Commissione/Portogallo (Designazione e protezione delle zone speciali di conservazio......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 cases
  • Opinion of Advocate General Ćapeta delivered on 9 February 2023.
    • European Union
    • Court of Justice (European Union)
    • 9 February 2023
    ...(Foresta di Białowieża) (C‑441/17, EU:C:2018:255, punto 213), e del 22 giugno 2022, Commissione/Slovacchia (Protezione del gallo cedrone) (C‑661/20, EU:C:2022:496, punto 42 V. sentenze del 5 settembre 2019, Commissione/Portogallo (Designazione e protezione delle zone speciali di conservazio......

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