Nature Conservation

Commission v Spain, C-235-04, 28 June 2007

The European Court of Justice has issued a judgement concerning the duties imposed on member states to classify territories as special protection areas (“SPA’s”) for birds in order to comply with the Birds Directive 79/409/EEC.

Here, the Commission argued that Spain had not specified areas of sufficient size and number as SPA’s. Although a list of endangered species had been published, Spain stated that they did not use the list because they believed that it was not the most reliable one available, on the basis that it had not been endorsed or supervised by the Commission.

However, the court ruled that this was the most up-to-date list available for establishing the criteria for identifying an SPA and that therefore it should be relied upon.

Additionally, the Spanish Government argued that the criterion used for identifying bio-geographical regions defined in the Habitats Directive should be viewed as the equivalent to areas defined under Birds Directive.

The court held that this was not the case, and that when identifying areas of conservation for wild birds the ornithological criterion listed in the Birds Directive should be used. The Spanish Government also submitted that those areas not yet classified as SPAs would still be protected under the Habitats Directive, but the court ruled that this was not the case, that the regimes under these Directives were separate and that a member state could not exonerate itself from its obligations under Article 4(1) and (2) of the Birds Directive by relying on the provisions of the Habitats Directive.

Accordingly, the court ruled that the Spanish Government had failed to fulfil its obligations under the Directive by failing to classify territories of sufficient size and number as SPA’s.

The full judgement can be accessed via the following link:-

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