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EU court sticks to strict interpretation of Birds Directive in Swedish logging case

However, the wind power industry has voiced concern that the judgment could scupper plans to relax protections in order to ramp up wind farm construction. Wolfram Axthelm of German wind power association BWE told business daily Handelsblatt that the judgment would not help his sector. “Individual species protection in every planning application represents a massive hurdle,” he said.

Wind power: sector fears ruling could scupper expansion plans.Europe’s top court has ruled that EU protections extend to all bird populations when national authorities consider approving potentially harmful activities, going against an advocate-general’s opinion in a ruling with implications for wind power expansion.

Three Swedish groups brought a case against the Västra Götaland county government over its decision not to intervene after a forestry company announced it would clear-cut an area of forest near Härryda. The national forestry board had published an opinion stating that the move would not be in breach of Sweden’s law transposing the EU’s Birds and Habitats Directives.

The Vänersborg lower court referred the case to the CJEU, asking for clarification on how the directives should be interpreted.

Among the questions it submitted to judges in Luxembourg, the Swedish court wanted to know whether national practices that only protect populations of threatened bird species are compatible with article 5 of the Birds Directive, which requires member states to “establish a general system of protection” for all “naturally occurring birds in the... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Wind power: sector fears ruling could scupper expansion plans. Europe’s top court has ruled that EU protections extend to all bird populations when national authorities consider approving potentially harmful activities, going against an advocate-general’s opinion in a ruling with implications for wind power expansion.

Three Swedish groups brought a case against the Västra Götaland county government over its decision not to intervene after a forestry company announced it would clear-cut an area of forest near Härryda. The national forestry board had published an opinion stating that the move would not be in breach of Sweden’s law transposing the EU’s Birds and Habitats Directives.

The Vänersborg lower court referred the case to the CJEU, asking for clarification on how the directives should be interpreted.

Among the questions it submitted to judges in Luxembourg, the Swedish court wanted to know whether national practices that only protect populations of threatened bird species are compatible with article 5 of the Birds Directive, which requires member states to “establish a general system of protection” for all “naturally occurring birds in the wild state”.

Juliane Kokott, an advocate-general at the court, had argued in an opinion last year that the directive should focus on overall bird numbers rather than populations in specific areas. That would mean the directive’s protections would apply in the first instance only to birds whose conservation status is listed as threatened in annex 1 of the directive.

However, the CJEU ruled last week that article 5 should be interpreted as opposing national measures that “only concern species listed in annex 1 of this directive, those that are threatened up to a certain level or whose population shows a long-term declining trend”.

The ruling indicates that the Swedish system is incompatible with EU law because it does not require the collection of information on all bird species in an area where disturbances will take place before authorities can grant derogations on their protection.

Raphael Weyland, head of the Brussels office of German green group NABU, told ENDS that at an EU-level the judgment means member states must continue “to apply strict species protection to each individual bird”. Member states can still carry out logging, “but then you need to undertake a profound assessment of which species are there and whether you need to grant a derogation for them”, he added.

Green group Skydda Skogen, one of the three to bring the case against the Swedish authorities, welcomed the CJEU’s judgment as evidence that current nature protection measures are inadequate.

Skydda Skogen was among the groups to sign an open letter last year warning that Sweden faces a “critical” situation where 14 of 15 forest ecosystems designated as protected sites under the Habitats Directive do not have a favourable conservation status.

The ruling “highlights the inadequate management by the authorities in connection with forestry measures and that forestry in Sweden must be carried out in another manner in order to become compatible with both the Birds and the Habitats Directives”, said Lina Burnelius, a campaigner for the group.

However, the wind power industry has voiced concern that the judgment could scupper plans to relax protections in order to ramp up wind farm construction.

Wolfram Axthelm of German wind power association BWE told business daily Handelsblatt that the judgment would not help his sector. “Individual species protection in every planning application represents a massive hurdle,” he said.

NABU’s Weyland noted that member states continue to have “a certain flexibility” in applying the provisions of the EU nature directives. “In Germany, they know which species are threatened and for those they need to do protection measures, and for the others they just hand out a blanket derogation,” he said. “Of course species protection is needed because these species are not in a good state: that’s why we have these environmental rules.”


Source: https://www.endseurope.com/...

MAR 8 2021
https://www.windaction.org/posts/52181-eu-court-sticks-to-strict-interpretation-of-birds-directive-in-swedish-logging-case
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