According to the Commission, current Greek hunting legislation is failing to fulfil the country’s obligation to protect migratory wild birds during their return flights to breeding grounds. In the case of Belgium, the Commission is concerned that the country’s legislation regarding bans on the keeping of wild non-native birds (though native to other European countries) in captivity, and on the keeping of such species derivatives and eggs is insufficient.

“The Wild Birds Directive represents a common framework for conserving the Community’s wild bird species, which are a shared heritage and responsibility,” said Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström. “These decisions underline the importance the Commission attaches to respect for these important rules.”

With respect to the action against Greece, the Commission is keen to stress that the directive recognises hunting as a legitimate activity which even makes a positive contribution to conservation by promoting the maintenance of bird habitats that might otherwise be destroyed. However, the directive does require a balance between hunting and maintaining healthy and viable populations – which need not be mutually exclusive. This covers the need to protect species at periods of greatest vulnerability, such as return migration, reproduction and dependence of young birds. According to the Commission, Greece is failing to provide such a provision for 17 migratory species.

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