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EU Legal Action

February 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

EU Legal Action

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The European Commission will take the Cypriot Government to court for failing to protect the Cypriot grass snake.

Statement

This case concerns the lack of protection of the Cypriot grass snake (Natrix natrix cypriaca) which is an endemic priority species, listed at Annexes II and IV of Directive 92/43 and needs strict protection.

The Commission considered that the Cypriot authorities had not taken the necessary measures to protect Natrix natrix cypriaca, contrary to the requirements of Directive 92/43/EC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora and decided to send a Reasoned Opinion on 6.6.2008.

Despite several promises that designation was imminent Cyprus has only recently (the Commission was informed on 23.12.2009) included the Paralimni Lake, in which the snake can be found, in the list of proposed Sites of Community Importance (“pSCI”). Nevertheless, designation is considered as insufficient as the northern part of the lake is excluded. Furthermore, CY still tolerates activities which seriously disturb the species and destroy its habitat (e.g. excessive water abstraction and motocross site)

Furthermore, on 12.3.2009, the competent authority for projects approval in Cyprus authorized the demarcation of 304 land plots, in the northern part of the lake, for a private company. The Republic of Cyprus then changed the land use zoning in the northern part of the lake from “protected area” (under Cypriot law) to “residential area”. Construction permits, for the creation of hotels and villas, are about to be granted in an area which should have been designated as a SCI.

The Commission is therefore taking Cyprus to European Court of Justice on the grounds that designation is insufficient and that no protective measures have been taken.

Legal Process

Article 258 of the Treaty gives the Commission powers to take legal action against a Member State that is not respecting its obligations.

If the Commission considers that there may be an infringement of EU law that warrants the opening of an infringement procedure, it addresses a “Letter of Formal Notice” (first written warning) to the Member State concerned, requesting it to submit its observations within a specified period, usually within two months.

In the light of the reply or absence of a reply from the Member State concerned, the Commission may decide to address a “Reasoned Opinion” (final written warning) to the Member State. This clearly and definitively sets out the reasons why it considers there to have been an infringement of EU law and calls upon the Member State to comply within a specified period, normally two months.

If the Member State fails to comply with the Reasoned Opinion, the Commission may decide to bring the case before the European Court of Justice. Where the Court of Justice finds that the Treaty has been infringed, the offending Member State is required to take the measures necessary to conform.

Article 260 of the Treaty gives the Commission power to act against a Member State that does not comply with a previous judgement of the European Court of Justice. The article also allows the Commission to ask the Court to impose a financial penalty on the Member State concerned.

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