EU may fine Cyprus over Grass Snake
In the Cyprus Mail By Patrick Dewhurst Published on September 26, 2010
TAXPAYERS could soon be lumbered with a multi million euro fine, when the European Union takes the government to court for disobeying an ecological conservation directive, the Green party said yesterday.
In a statement, Green Party MP George Perdikis slammed the government’s decision to disobey the EU directive by allowing one businessman to develop land around Paralimni Lake, which is home to an indigenous and endangered Cyprus grass snake ( natrix natrix cypriaca)
Perdikis said that since 2009 the Green party, ecologists and EU officials have been protesting against the Paralimni development, but the government has ignored them. “Instead the government chose to satisfy the interests of one businessman at the expense of the public and the environment.”
“Our warnings were not taken into account by the Agriculture Ministry, parliament, the interior minister or Paralimni municipality… No one.”
He added that when the when the government is brought before the European court, conviction will be the only possible outcome and the cost will inevitably fall on the taxpayer.
“As it often happens, since there is no planning punishment is inevitable,” said Perdikis, adding: “the common folk of the country would have to pay because those in power sought to serve the land developer and various local petty interests.”
If the government does change its policy and try to stop the development, they will be required to pay damages to the developer, which will end in the same result for the tax payer, the statement said.
The European Commission sent an initial notice requiring that Paralimni lake be designated a “sight of community importance” (SCI) followed by a reasoned opinion in 2008.
Despite several promises by the government that the site would be granted SCI status, development went ahead.
Barbara Helfferich, Spokeswoman for the Environment at the Commission said: “The Commission considered that the Cypriot Authorities had not taken the necessary measures to protect the Cyprus Grass Snake, contrary to the requirements of directives on the conservation and habitats of flora and fauna.”
Local snake conservations Hans-George Wiedl, also known as “Snake George” said “This is the last chance for Cypriots to prevent the extinction of this beautiful snake. If people don’t listen, and the snake becomes extinct, then I know who is to blame,” he said.
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