Malta’s finch-trapping at the European Court of Justice

goldfinches and linnets

 

On May 1, 2013, Roderick Galdes, Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Hunting and Trapping announced that a technical loophole had been found “that would allow the Government to present proposals to the European Union to allow bird-trapping in autumn.” The European Commission has not been impressed and the loophole referred to by Roderick Galdes will shortly be examined by the European Court of Justice.

During the negotiations leading to Malta’s accession to the European Union, bird-trapping had been one of the areas referred to in the treaty itself. In fact, the Treaty of Adhesion provided for a transition period at the end of which bird- trapping in Malta was to cease permanently. The cut-off date was 31 December 2008.

This limited concession was subject to a number of conditions relative to the setting-up of a captive bird  breeding programme which was to be introduced by 30 June 2005 as well as to carry out various studies intended to establish the numbers and types of species held and bred in aviaries as well as their mortality rate and their replenishment to sustain the genetic diversity of the captive species.

All this was ignored, notwithstanding the fact that, way back in 2004, the authorities had  detailed advice as to how this was to be implemented.

This is the current state of play: the interpretation of the rules as accepted on the date of Malta’s EU adhesion.

 

Earlier this week, the Commission of the European Union decided to refer Malta to the European Court of Justice because Malta is not committed to end finch- trapping. The following was stated by the Commission in an explanatory press release:

“The case concerns Malta’s decision to allow the live capture (i.e. trapping) of seven species of wild finches as of 2014. In the EU, the capture and keeping of bird species like finches is generally prohibited. However, member states may derogate from the strict protection requirement if there is no other satisfactory solution, and if the derogation is used judiciously, with small numbers and strict supervision. As these conditions have not been met in this case, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice in October 2014, urging Malta to refrain from allowing finch-trapping. Despite this warning, Malta went ahead as planned with the opening of a finch-trapping season in 2014. In response, the Commission sent a reasoned opinion to Malta in May 2015, urging Malta to end the practice. Malta has replied, contesting the Commission’s analysis. Since Malta has not committed to end finch-trapping, the Commission has therefore decided to refer Malta to the Court of Justice of the EU.”

In a background note the Commission further noted:

“In Europe, many species of wild birds are in decline, and markedly so in some cases. This decline disturbs the biological balance and is a serious threat to the natural environment.The EU Directive on the conservation of wild birds aims to protect all species of wild birds that occur naturally in the Union. The Directive bans activities that directly threaten birds such as deliberate killing or capture, destruction of nests and removal of eggs, and associated activities such as trading in live or dead birds, with a few exceptions. It also places great emphasis on the protection of habitats for endangered and migratory species, especially through the establishment of a network of Special Protection Areas (SPAs).

Article 9 of the directive provides limited scope for derogations from the requirement of strict protection where there is no other satisfactory solution, for instance, in the interests of public health and safety or air safety, to prevent serious damage to crops, livestock, forests, fisheries and water, and for the protection of flora and fauna. Derogations may also be permitted for the purposes of research and teaching, repopulation, reintroduction and for the breeding necessary for these purposes.

Malta was allowed a transitional arrangement in the Accession Treaty to phase out the trapping of finches, taking into account the time required to establish a captive breeding programme. The transitional arrangement expired in 2008.

The case concerns the live capture of seven species: chaffinch, linnet, goldfinch, greenfinch, hawfinch, serin and siskin.”

Published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 27 September 2015

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The 11 April vote : not against hunters

 

kacca u voti

The issue to be decided upon on 11 April is whether Malta should accept or repeal the regulations that permit spring hunting.

In fact the question asked in the referendum is as follows : Do you agree that the provisions of the “Framework for Allowing a Derogation Opening a Spring Hunting Season for Turtle Dove and Quail Regulations” (Subsidiary Legislation 504.94) should continue in force?

On the 11 April we are expected to answer this question. A YES signifies agreement with spring hunting while a NO will abolish spring hunting from Malta’s statute book. It will also bring Malta in line with the Wild Birds Directive of the European Union.

The Wild Birds Directive is about the protection of biodiversity and not about facilitating hunting. As has been emphasised by university students on the campus this week, the focus of the referendum is sustainability. It is not about pleasing hunters but about our duties as a nation to protect wild birds. We have a duty, as a nation, to protect wild birds. We have a duty -all of us- to protect nature. In particular, we have a duty to prevent the loss of biodiversity.

Spring is the time when birds fly over Malta on their way to their breeding grounds. Malta, as one of the member states of the European Union along the route used by wild birds on their way to their rearing grounds, has a special responsibility to ensure that these birds are not hunted and can safely reach their destination.

The permissible exceptions are limited and very specific. These exceptions are known as “derogations”. The Wild Birds Directive permits the killing of wild birds during spring if these are a threat to aviation security. Likewise, the killing of wild birds in the spring is permissible if they are agricultural pests or else pose a sanitary threat. The Wild Birds Directive does not, in any way, permit the killing of birds for fun.

There are a number of inaccuracies being bandied around by the hunting lobby during this referendum campaign. They state, for example, that Malta has negotiated a derogation relative to spring hunting.  This is incorrect. No EU member has negotiated, or can negotiate, any spring hunting derogation. Derogations are not designed to suite the interests of individual states and the rules regulating such derogations are spelt out clearly and are applicable to all member states in equal measure.

The decision of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in 2009 is also being grossly misinterpreted and quoted out of context. The ECJ decision does not in any way condone spring hunting. It does, in fact, chastise Malta for infringing the Wild Birds Directive during the period 2004-2007 and concludes that, by authorising spring hunting of quails and turtle doves  from 2004 to 2007, Malta has failed to comply with the Wild Birds Directive. (ECJ decision C-76/08 dated 9 September 2009) The reports on the derogations unilaterally taken by the Maltese government to permit spring hunting from 2008 to date are still being evaluated by the European Commission.

These are briefly the issues which the 11 April will decide. As a direct consequence of abolishing spring hunting, in addition to shouldering our responsibilities as a nation to protect wild birds during their breeding time we will have the added benefit of reclaiming the countryside during spring.

This abrogative referendum is a democratic tool which is being utilised for the first time by civil society in Malta. It is being used because, over the years, the parliamentary political parties preferred to listen to the hunting lobby which repeatedly warned them: “No hunting no vote”   and had them on a leash.

Maybe this time they will take heed, that even environmentalists have a vote.  It is not a vote against hunters, but a vote in favour of wild birds and their protection. It is a vote in favour of our environment and in favour of Malta .

published in the Malta Independent on Sunday: 22nd March 2015

30 minuta għal John Dalli

30 minutes or less

Meta Josè Manoel Barroso, President tal-Kummissjoni Ewropeja, iltaqa’ ma John Dalli nhar  is-16 t’Ottubru 2012 qallu li kien qed jagħtih 30 minuta biex jiddeċiedi – jew jitlaq inkella jtellqu.

Wara li iktar kmieni din il-ġimgħa l-Qorti Ewropeja tal-Ġustizzja (ECJ) semgħet ix-xhieda ta’ John Dalli, ta’ Josè Manoel Barroso u ta’ oħrajn, kif ukoll wara li l-konsulenti legali kemm ta’ Dalli kif ukoll ta’ Barroso qalu tagħhom, l-affarijiet forsi huma ftit iktar ċari.

Lil John Dalli nafu, mill-viċin. Ħdimt miegħu għal xi żmien. Nistqarr li jiena ftit ippreġudikat favur tiegħu. Kont qiegħed nittama li f’dak li nisma’ jew naqra insib x’imkien xi ħaġa li tispjega dak li ilu jingħad b’mod li jkun  ċar li mexa sewwa.

Dak li qiegħed jingħad m’hu ta’ ġid għal ħadd. Jagħmel il-ħsara lir-reputazzjoni ta’ kulħadd. L-ikbar ħsara li saret s’issa hi lir-reputazzjoni ta’ Malta li jidher illi kull min lablab dwar il-każ ftit li xejn ħa in konsiderazzjoni.

Hemm affarijiet li huma ċari ħafna. Il-każ  hu kumplott mill-industrija tat-tabakk biex tipproteġi lilha inifisha u biex tnaqqas ir-regolamentazzjoni tal-industrija. Il-mira kienet id-Direttiva dwar il-Prodotti tat-Tabakk u l-profitti sostanzjali għall-industrija li jirriżultaw b’inqas  regolamentazzjoni.

John Dalli jidher li għandu raġun meta jinsisti li hemm diversi persuni mlaħħqin fil-Kummissjoni li kienu f’kuntatt inkiss inkiss mal-industrija tat-tabakk. Tant li Corporate Europe Observatory nhar it-2 ta’ Lulju 2014 ħabbret li l-Ombudsman tal-EU Emily O’Reilly ser tinvestiga 14-il laqgħa li saru minn persuni ta’ madwar Barroso u li m’humiex dokumentati skond ir-regoli tal-EU. Il-Corporate Europe Observatory hi bbażata fi Brussels. Xogħolha hu  biex tgħasses fuq il-lobby tal-industrija u n-negozju u l-impatt tagħhom fuq il-ħidma tal-istrutturi kollha tal-Unjoni Ewropeja.

Imma minbarra dawn il-laqgħat li Barroso u ta’ madwaru qed jgħidu li ma sarux hemm laqgħat oħra li saru minn John Dalli. John Dalli ikkonferma anke’ fix-xhieda tiegħu quddiem il-Qorti Ewropeja li dawn il-laqgħat saru imma qal li ma ippjanhomx u l-anqas ma kien jaf li dawk li ltaqgħu miegħu kienu mill-industrija tat-tabakk.  Jiġifieri l-inqas li jista’ jingħad hu li tat-tabakk lil Dalli ippruvaw jaħdmuh, u sa ċertu punt irnexxilhom. Imkien ma irriżulta s’issa li Dalli, kif induna x’ġara, informa lill-awtoritajiet kompetenti fi Brussels b’dak li ġara.  L-unika ħaġa li nafu li titfa ftit dawl fuq x’ġara hi x-xhieda ta’ Joanna Darmanin [ara nota 1], li kienet tmexxi s-Segretarjat Privat ta’ Dalli bħala Kummissarju Ewropew fi Brussels. Darmanin nhar it-Tnejn xhedet illi meta staqsiet lil John Dalli jekk hux veru li huwa ltaqa’ ma tat-tabakk, weġibha li jiltaqa’ ma kull min jidhirlu hu. Dan hu statement gravi ħafna, għax waqt li kien Kummissarju John Dalli ma kellux dan id-dritt li jiltaqa’ ma min irid hu. 24 siegħa kuljum kien qed jirrappreżenta lill-Kummissjoni u kellu l-obbligu li jimxi mar-regoli. Dan m’għamlux, anke jekk mhux neċessarjament li hu t-tort tiegħu.

Fid-dawl ta’ dan kollu hu ċar li John Dalli iltaqa’ ma rappreżentanti tal-industrija tat-tabakk u ma informa b’dan lil ħadd sakemm inqalgħet l-istorja tas-€60 miljun.

Ir-rapport tal-OLAF fuq il-każ kollu hu mimli toqob. Kif sewwa jgħid Dalli innifsu biex sar ir-rapport Giovanni Kesssler wettaq ħafna irregolaritajiet. Waħda mill-MEPs Ġermaniżi membru tal-Kumitat Parlamentari (EU) tal-kontroll tal-budget iddokumentat dawn l-irregolaritajiet  gravi, lista twila.

Dan iwassal għal żewġ konklużjonijiet bażiċi.  L-ewwel li r-rapport ta’ Govanni Kessler għandu jkun skartat u t-tieni li John Dalli, b’konferma tiegħu stess, iltaqa’ b’mod irregolari ma’ rappreżentanti tal-industrija tat-tabakk. It-tielet konkluzjoni dwar kuntatti irregolari ta’ dawk madwar Barroso mal-industrija tat-tabakk  trid tistenna ftit ieħor sakemm l-Ombudsman tal-EU Emily O’Reilly ittemm l-investigazzjoni tagħha.

Dan ifisser li John Dalli bħala riżultat li tat-tabakk ħadmuh ma kienx iktar postu fil-Kummissjoni Ewropeja.

John Dalli ma kellux bżonn 30 minuta biex jiddeċiedi. Kien ilu li ikkomprometta l-posizzjoni tiegħu mill-mument li induna li tat-tabakk ħadmuh u ma għamilx rapport dwar dan.

Hi ħasra li John Dalli aġixxa b’mod daqshekk baħnan. L-irġulija titlob li meta jsir żball nerfgħu r-responsabbilta’ tiegħu.  Wasal iż-żmien li anke John Dalli jagħmel dan il-pass. Il-ħsara li saret hi kbira wisq.

ippubblikat fuq iNews il-Ħamis 10 ta’ Lulju 2014

 

nota 1:

Malta Today irrappurtat hekk online

18:16: Darmanin says she asked Dalli whether he had really met the tobacco representatives. “He said, I meet with whom I like.”

 

Dalli vs Barroso u Kessler : ir-round li jmiss

ceo_carrousel2_0

Il-ġimgħa d-dieħla fil-Qorti Ewropeja tal-Ġustizzja ser jitla’ jixhed Josè Manoel Barroso innifsu biex iwieġeb għall-mistoqsijiet ta’ l-Imħallfin fil-kawża li fetaħ John Dalli innifsu.

Dan hu l-ewwel darba li Barroso qed ikun mitlub jixhed dwar il-każ sentejn wara r-riżenja sfurzata ta’ John Dalli minn Kummissarju.

Imma dan mhux kollox. L-Ombudsman tal-EU Emily O’Reilly bdiet tinvestga dwar laqgħat sigrieti bejn il-Kummissjoni Ewropeja u l-Industrija tat-tabakk. Talbet lill-Barroso jispjega u tatu sat-30 ta’ Settembru żmien.

L-investigazzjoni tal-Ombudsman tal-EU bdiet wara li irċeviet ilment mill-NGO Ewropew Corporate Europe Observatory.

Sadanittant f’Malta sirna nafu li Silvio Zammit ġie imwiegħed proklama u li l-konfront bejn John Dalli u Giovanni Kessler jidher li hu pospost!

Il-kobba tkompli titħabbel.

 

 

 

 

 

Meta jfittxu l-passi tagħna

Big Brother is listening

Kellu jkun rapport tal-Vodafone dwar l-operazzjonijiet tagħha globali li nissel interess tal-istampa lokali dwar il-fatt li s-servizzi tas-sigurta’ f’Malta għandhom jew jista’ jkollhom aċċess għat-telefonati tagħna u/jew għal informazzjoni relatata għal dawn it-telefonati.

Dan l-aċċess hu permess mil-liġi kemm fil-ġlieda kontra l-kriminalita’ kif ukoll biex tiġi difiża s-sigurta’ tal-istat.

Ħadd m’hu jikkontesta li s-servizzi tas-sigurta’ għandu jkollhom dan id-dmir.

Id-diffikulta hi dwar x’kontrolli u x’verifika issir biex ikun assigurat illi jkun ġustifikat li jkun hemm dan l-aċċess. Il-liġi Maltija tagħti din l-awtorita’ lill-Ministru responsabbli mis-Servizz tas-Sigurta. Li qed jiġi propost fid-dibattitu pubbliku li qed jiżviluppa hu li m’għandux jibqa’ jkollu l-awtorita’ li jiddeċiedi jekk is-servizzi tas-sigurta’ għandux ikollhom dan l-aċċess, iżda li din l-awtorita’ għandha tgħaddi f’idejn il-Qrati. Għandhom ikunu l-Qrati ta’ Malta li jirċievu talba għal aċċess għal informazzjoni konnessa mat-telefonati u għandhom ikunu huma li jgħarblu jekk dan l-aċċess huwiex meħtieġ u neċessarju.

Dan id-dibattitu jinkwadra fid-dibattitu usa dwar id-dritt li għandu kull ċittadin għal privatezza tad-data diġitali privata dwaru, liema argument Alternattiva Demokratika żviluppat waqt il-kampanja elettorali għall-Parlament Ewropew. Sfortunatament, dakinnhar, kemm il-partiti politiċi l-oħra kif ukoll il-gazzetti u mezzi tax-xandir baqgħu siekta. Ftit ġimgħat ilu dan is-suġġett ma kien jinteressa lil ħadd!

Tajjeb li niftakru li l-Qorti Ewropeja tal-Ġustizzja fil-bidu t’April 2014 ħassret Direttiva Ewropeja dwar għal kemm żmien il-kumpaniji tat-telekomunikazzjoni għandhom iżommu data diġitali kif ukoll dwar min u kif għandu jkollu aċċess għal din id-data [Data Retention Directive]. Il-Qorti Ewropeja fil-waqt li fehmet il-ħtieġa li fl-interess tal-ġlieda kontra l-kriminalita jkun hemm aċċess mill-forzi tal-ordni ma qablitx li kien hemm biżżejjed garanziji għall-privatezza taċ-ċittadin.

Tajjeb li niftakru li minn żmien għal żmien ikun hemm allegazzjonijiet li l-forzi tas-sigurta’ jkunu abbużaw minn dan id-dritt ta’ aċċess. Per eżempju dan l-aħħar ġejna mfakkra li kien hemm dan is-suspett waqt il-kampanja referendarja dwar id-divorzju in konnessjoni mat-telfon ċellulari ta’ Varist Bartolo kif ukoll dak ta’ Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando.

Kien hemm każ ieħor li s’issa għadu ma ngħatx spjegazzjoni sodisfaċenti dwaru. Ma nafx kemm tiftakru x’ġara nhar it-Tnejn 14 ta’ Diċembru 2009, dakinnhar li Franco Debono ma kienx mar għal votazzjoni l-Parlament imbagħad f’daqqa waħda tfaċċa fil-Parlament skortat.

L-Orizzont ta’ nhar il-Ġimgħa 18 ta’ Diċembru 2009 kienet ippubblikat  artiklu investigattiv ta’ John Pisani intitolat : “Intuża apparat tas-Servizz Sigriet biex instab Franco Debono nhar it-Tnejn. MISSJONI IMPOSSIBLI.”

Il-Gvern, dakinnhar kien ċaħad, imma din iċ-ċaħda ma kienet ikkonvinċiet lil ħadd.

Nistgħu nissugraw li jkun possibli li l-istat jispjuna fuqna b’dan il-mod?

 ippubblikat fuq iNews nhar it-Tlieta 24 ta’ Ġunju 2014

Snippets from the EGP Manifesto: (7) Citizens: the decision makers

European Citizens' Initiative

 

We want to strengthen the opportunities for EU’s citizens to influence decisions. We want to work for more participatory democracy. Greens helped introduce the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) which allows for EU citizens to call on the European Commission to make legislative proposals. Now it is time to take the next step. We want to broaden the scope of the ECI and make it more efficient and citizen-friendly. We also want to create a legal basis for EU-wide referenda.

Where citizens are being deprived of their rights in an EU member state without remedy from that country’s judicial system they should have the possibility of taking collective legal action in the EU’s Court of Justice. We will continue to fight hard against the well-established and well-funded lobbies like the agro-chemical industry or the giant seed companies. We are calling for food democracy, where citizens reclaim control over what they eat and can create fair and sustainable food production and supply systems.

(EGP 2014 Manifesto section entitled  : Citizens as European decision makers)

Snippets from the EGP Manifesto: (5) Lobbyists, fraud and corruption

EU.lobbying 

The EU needs a stronger anti-corruption policy and more effective instruments against organized crime to strengthen democracy and the rule of law, and also to strengthen the European economy.

Corrupt behaviour by EU officials or parliamentarians in their relations with lobbyists must be met with very strong reactions. Big business still influences the Commission too much. Almost 80% of all stakeholders appointed by the Commission represent corporate interests, despite a commitment to change.

Greens also fight to tackle the problem of “revolving doors” where top bureaucrats and politicians in European institutions join private organizations which they were previously responsible for regulating. We want to safeguard democracy from corruption by introducing robust regulation and transparency for the financing of political parties, candidates and election campaigns. We want to provide the Court of Justice of the EU and the European Court of Auditors with stronger tools to control the way in which EU resources are spent and to act against corruption both within the EU institutions and in the case of serious problems within the member states.

(EGP 2014 Manifesto section entitled  : Fight Fraud and Corruption)