Cyprus Faces EU Court Over Habitats Directive Noncompliance

In a significant move to uphold environmental laws, the European Commission has escalated its legal action against Cyprus by referring the country to the EU Court of Justice (ECJ). The referral is a response to Cyprus’s failure to meet its obligations under the Habitats Directive, a key piece of legislation designed to safeguard over a thousand species of animals and plants within the European Union.

Despite Cyprus having designated 37 locations as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), the European Commission has found that 28 of these sites lack the necessary conservation measures. Furthermore, the objectives for conserving five additional sites have been judged as insufficient, leaving the habitats and species within them exposed to potential threats.

This development follows a series of warnings from the Commission, which began with a formal notice in June 2021 and was followed by a reasoned opinion in April 2022. Although Cyprus has made some headway in designating SACs, it has fallen short of fully addressing the issues highlighted by the Commission, prompting the referral to the ECJ.

The Habitats Directive is integral to the protection of biodiversity across Europe, requiring the formation of Natura 2000, an expansive network of protected areas that includes both SACs and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds. Under European law, member states are tasked with identifying and proposing sites essential for conservation, which are then officially recognized as Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) by the Commission. These SCIs must be designated as SACs within six years by member states, who are also responsible for implementing conservation objectives and measures to maintain or restore the health of species and habitats found there.

The Commission’s decision to take legal action is part of a broader effort to protect and rejuvenate biodiversity in line with the European Green Deal’s Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. Cyprus is not alone in facing infringement proceedings; 16 member states have been pursued over issues related to SAC designation and conservation practices.

For more detailed coverage on this developing story, readers can follow updates from Cyprus Mail on Google News.

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