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A complaint was filed with the European Court of Justice (ECJ) against the German government yesterday. The Commission accused its member state of failing to produce sufficient conservation plans for more than 4,000 sites deemed important for protecting nature. Germany has “still not designated a significant number of areas as special protection areas,” according to a statement from the commission.
It said in a statement on its website: “The Commission issued a letter of formal notice in 2015 and, after thorough discussions with the German authorities, sent a complementary letter of formal notice in 2019, followed by a reasoned opinion in February 2020.
“According to the latest information provided by the authorities, Germany is still failing to designate a significant number of sites as SACs.
“In addition, the Commission considers that the conservation objectives set for sites in Germany are not sufficiently quantified, measurable and reportable.
“In conclusion, the Commission considers that there has been a general and persistent practice of failing to set sufficiently detailed and quantified conservation objectives for all 4606 Sites of Community Importance, in all Länder and at federal level.
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“This has a significant impact on the quality and effectiveness of the conservation measures established.
“The Commission is therefore referring Germany to the Court of Justice of the EU.”
Germany was specifically criticised for failing to enforce the Flora-Fauna-Habitat Directive for the conservation of natural habitats and the protection of wild animals and plants.
Another area that came under fire was the designation of protected areas in order to protect or restore the population of species.
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The commission argued this has “significant effects on the quality and effectiveness” of the measures.
It comes as Germany is currently embroiled in 14 other environmental policy proceedings due to directives from Brussels not being started on time or carried out correctly.
The commission had initiated what is known as infringement proceedings against Germany in 2015.
These extra proceedings are likely to have contributed in the EU snapping and filing the latest complaint.
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The commission said yesterday that “the deadline for completing the necessary measures for all areas in Germany” had expired in some cases more than ten years ago.
Germany is not the only country to face the wrath of the commission for falling short on nature conservation and water treatment.
The commission also took Slovakia to court yesterday for breaching EU particulate matter limits between 2005 and 2019, except for 2016, in Banskobystricky kraj, a mountainous region in central Slovakia.
The commission added Slovakia’s efforts to fix the problem had still resulted in a failure to reduce pollution in line with legal limits or minimise the length of breaches.
Air pollution is still the biggest environmental health risk
Slovakian Environment Minister Jan Budaj said the national and local governments would help support to address air pollution.
He said: “We need a new political and social acceptance to clean the air of Slovakia and I am convinced that we will achieve that.”
If found guilty, Slovakia would join a list of nine EU states that the ECJ has found guilty of illegal air pollution, including Romania, Italy and Sweden.
If they continue to fail to follow the rules, they could face further legal action from the EU or have financial penalties.
Germany is currently embroiled in 14 other environmental policy proceedings with the EU
The EU executive also sued Slovenia for not properly treating waste water in four cities and towns before discharging it.
Air pollution in Europe has reduced over the last 10 years, but is still the biggest environmental health risk.
Fine particulate pollution caused 379,000 premature deaths in the EU in 2018, according to the European Environment Agency.
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.