Spain slammed by EU for not protecting birds

LAST UPDATED: 3 Sep, 2007 @ 10:41
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SPAIN is facing punishment from the EU for ignoring its responsibilities to endangered birdlife.

The European Courts of Justice has found the country guilty of breaching nature conservation law.

According to the ruling there are insufficient Special Protection Areas (SPAs) in seven regions of the country.

Under the EU Birds Directive, Spain must make larger and more spaces available for the rare and endangered birds within its borders.


Spain, like other EU countries, has shown commitment to implementing the EU’s nature legislation and to work towards the EU-wide target of halting biodiversity loss by 2010.

But as the Court ruling shows, more needs to be done. Several bird species, like the Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) – 60 per cent of the European population resides in Spain – or the Houbara Bustard (Chlamydotis undulata), which only exists on the Canary Islands in the EU, are under severe threat from human activities and are reliant on protection under European law in order to ensure their survival.

The EU Birds Directive declares that each Member State has to designate the most appropriate areas for the protection of birds based on biological criteria.

BirdLife International’s inventory of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) provides a reference list for this, as confirmed once more by the European Court.

In the case of Spain, IBAs cover 31.5 per cent of the country’s territory, while so far only 18 per cent has been designated as SPA under the Birds Directive.


Therefore the European Court has ruled today that Spain has to close this gap and designate the remaining sites.

There are 427 designated protection zones for birds in Spain, some 15 per cent of the total land area. Hundreds more zones are demanded.

The European Commission warned back in 2001 that Spain was ignoring EU directives in the regions of the Balearics, the Canaries and Andalucia.

Now it has added Castilla-La Mancha, Cataluna, Galicia and Valencia to the list of offenders.

Alejandro Sánchez, Director of SEO/BirdLife warned that many unique sites still need to be designated and enlarged.

“Only then can we ensure the protection of rare and threatened species such as Spanish Imperial Eagle and steppe birds like Dupont’s Lark.”

Clairie Papazoglou, Head of the European Division at BirdLife International in Brussels, welcomed the decision of the Court stating that: “We are pleased that our list of Important Bird Areas for Spain has been validated once again by the European Court. BirdLife International recognises that Spain has already taken important steps to protect its unique natural heritage, but more needs to be done, as this Court ruling clearly shows.”

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