Irish case on breach of birds and habitats directives —

Commission v Ireland

Ireland has been found to be in breach of Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds, as well as Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora.

Its breaches relate to its failure to classify all the most suitable territories in number and size for birds listed in Annex I and regularly visiting migratory birds, as required in Article 4(1) and (2) of the Birds Directive, as well as its failure to ensure that the provisions of Article 4(4) in relation to avoiding pollution or deterioration of habitats were applied to SPAs, whether classified or unclassified but requiring to be classified.

It also failed to transpose and apply the requirement to provide general protection for the habitats of wild birds outside of the special protection areas. In relation to this, the Court was of the opinion that the integrated pollution prevention and control regime, minimum requirements on good agricultural and environmental conditions, the Rural Environment Protection Scheme and the Wildlife Act 1976 were all inadequate to transpose the requirement in the second sentence of Article 4(4).

These measures were all considered too indirect to be sufficient, as were practical measures considered.

Ireland were also found to have breached the Birds Directive in terms of Article 10, requiring Member States to encourage research and work needed to protect, manage and use the population of all species listed under Annex I, as well as pay particular attention to research and work on subjects in Annex V.

Information is to be sent to the Commission to allow them to take measures necessary to co-ordinate such research and work. All measures put forward by Ireland, such as the Wildlife Act and case-law were rejected by the Court as too indirect, compounded by the fact that measures were in practice clearly lacking as far as scientific research went.

Ireland has breached the Habitats Directive in respect of Article 6(2) in relation to special protection areas, as there is no notice of the activities subject to authorisation in the vicinity of these areas, and as a result there is no legal instrument that can ensure that the transposition of this Article is fully effective.

The law relating to trespass was considered to be too indirect to provide protection from the acts of third parties in relation to the special protection areas, and as such this facet of Article 6(2) was not complied with. In relation to plans likely to have an effect on special protection zones, it was considered that environmental impact assessments and strategic environmental assessments were insufficient to act as substitutes for the need to include such plans in the transposition of Article 6(3) and (4).

The administrative procedures used to implement Article 6(3) and (4) in relation to aquaculture programmes were inadequate in terms of the weight given to advice from the nature conservancy authority on such programmes proposed that might affect special protection areas.

Ireland have further breached Articles 6(2), (3) and (4) of the Habitats Directive by imposing measures to maintain drainage ditches despite this activity causing adverse effects on the integrity of the special protection zone in which it was carried out.

The case can be accessed at the following link.

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