The European Commission has decided today to refer Germany to the European Court of Justice for not respecting its obligations under the Habitats Directive (Directive 92/43/EEC) on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora. Under the Directive, Member States must designate Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and establish site-specific conservation objectives and corresponding conservation measures to maintain or restore a favourable conservation status of the species and habitats therein. The European Green Deal and the European Biodiversity Strategy both stress how crucial it is for the EU to halt biodiversity loss by protecting and restoring biodiversity.
The time limit for completing the necessary steps for all sites in Germany expired more than 10 years ago in some cases. 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. 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.
Member States are required to legally designate their Sites of Community Importance established under the Habitats Directive as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC). Member States must also establish conservation measures for the protected species and habitat types in these sites, based on detailed site-specific conservation objectives.
The Commission has pursued several infringement cases on the designation of special areas of conservation, establishing conservation objectives and conservation measures. These are of high priority for the Commission, also in view of the recently adopted EU biodiversity strategy 2030, which aims to step up enforcement of existing EU environmental legislation.
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