Wild Birds Directive: Case C-135/04 Commission v Spain

The Attorney General gave his opinion in the case of Commission v Spain on the 7 April 2005, recommending that the Spanish government be condemned under the Wild Birds Directive (Directive 79/409/EEC).

The case came before the Court on the 12 March 2004 following a complaint by the Commission that Spanish rules on hunting wood pigeons were in breach of the Directive. The Commission sought a declaration of the court that, by allowing the practice of hunting migratory birds in Guipúzcoa, Spain has failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 7(4) of the Wild Birds Directive.

The hunting of returning migratory birds, in this case woodpigeon (Columba palumbas) returning to their rearing grounds, constituted a failure to comply with Article 7(4) of the Directive.

Article 7(4) provides that in the case of migratory species, Member States "shall see in particular that the species to which hunting regulations apply are not hunted during their period of reproduction or during their return to their rearing grounds".

While Spain put forward a number of reasons for non-compliance, these fail to justify the practice of hunting in Guipúzcoa. In justification of the hunting practices, Spain had argued that a derogation from Article 7(4) applied on the basis of Article 9(1)(c) of the Directive since there was no other satisfactory solution and historical and cultural traditions existed supporting such a derogation. Spain also sought to rely on the judgment of in Case 252/85 Commission v France, though this had been given in relation to a derogation from Article 8(1) of the Directive relating to hunting methods, so was inapplicable.

Whether Spain will be pulled up for the above breaches of European law will depend on the judgement of the European Court of Justice and whether they do indeed follow the recommendation of the Advocate General.

The case is not yet available in English but can be accessed at the following link and should shortly be available in English: Wild Birds Spain


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