Summary: Continuing its crusade against those who flout nature protection laws, the European Commission has decided to refer Belgium and Italy to the European Court of Justice against for failure to comply with amendments to the EU's Wild Birds Directive (Council Directive 79/409/EEC). It also decided to send off a reasoned opinion to Finland for failure to designate sufficient special protection areas for wild birds under the Directive.

The Wild Birds Directive is the EU's oldest piece of nature conservation legislation, and one of the most important. It sets up a comprehensive scheme of protection for the EU's wild bird species, covering conservation of the most important bird habitats as well as controls on hunting and other forms of exploitation such as the sale of live or dead birds and readily recognisable parts or derivatives of such birds. It includes a requirement on Member States to designate a network of protected areas (known as special protection areas or SPAs) for the most threatened species; within SPAs, bird habitats must be protected from deterioration. The Directive was amended by Directive 91/244/EEC. To date, Finland has only notified Brussels of 15 SPAs for wild birds. According to recent scientific information available to the Commission (which indicates that there are 91 sites in Finland which have either global or pan-European importance for wild birds), this is manifestly insufficient. Moreover, even for the 15 sites...

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