Austria told to protect wild birds

Austria was ordered to better protect birds on a nature reserve as it lost a legal wrangle with the Commission

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) issued judgement in the case of Commission v Austria (Case C-209/04) on 23 March 2006. The case concerned alleged infringements of both the Wild Birds Directive (Directive 79/409/EEC) and the Habitats Directive (92/43/EC). The Commission sought a declaration of the Court that by failing to include in the area of the Lauteracher Ried national nature reserve that is classified as a special protection area ('SPA') the Soren and Gleggen-Köblern sites which, according to scientific criteria, are, together with that SPA, among the most suitable territories in number and size for the purposes of Article 4(1) and (2) of the Wild Birds Directive.

The Commission also sought a declaration of the court to the effect that by failing, when authorising the planned construction of the federal S 18 Lake Constance dual carriageway to comply properly and fully with the requirements laid down in Article 6(4) of the Habitats Directive, in the case of execution of a project despite a negative assessment of the environmental implications for the site, Austria has failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 4(1) and (2) of the Birds Directive and Article 6(4), in conjunction with Article 7, of the Habitats Directive. However, it was held that the project for the construction of the S 18 dual carriageway was not subject to the requirements laid down in the Habitats Directive as the procedure for authorisation of the project was found to have been formally initiated prior to the date of accession of Austria to the European Union.

While the Court agreed with the Commission's submissions in respect of the first complaint and therefore held that Austria was in breach of the Wild Birds Directive, the second complaint, regarding obligations under the Habitats Directive, were dismissed. The full text of the judgement containing the reasoning of the Court is available at the following link: click here


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