The EC made the announcement that Sweden is to be taken to the European Court of Justice and that France has received its second, and final warning, on 12 January. The decision against Sweden relates to shortcomings of the Swedish legislation concerning the safeguards for newly-created protected sites, known as Natura 2000 sites, as well as the Habitats Directive’s requirements on prohibitions and exceptions on direct threats to certain species. While Sweden appears ready to make changes, these have yet to be adopted and notified, the EC says.

Last year, the European Court of Justice condemned France over a law allowing certain infrastructure projects to be exempt from environmental impact assessments, which was found to contravene the Habitats Directive and the latest decision represents a follow-up to that Court ruling. France has indicated that the necessary legislation will be in place by mid-2001 but given the Directive’s deadline of June 1994, the Commission has decided to press ahead with the action.

The Habitats Directive is the EC’s most important piece of nature conservation legislation and prohibits Member States from using economic, social or cultural requirements, or regional or local characteristics to delete sites listed for special protection. Compliance with the EU Habitats Directive requires each EU member state to submit a list of sites for protection, the Natura 2000 list.

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