18th December

Ireland faces action for failing to protect SACs

The European Commission has issued a 'Reasoned Opinion' to Ireland for failing to apply appropriate protection for areas designed under the Natura 2000 network.

In line with the Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC), Member States have had six years to designate protected areas under their natural law, turning them from 'Sites of Community Interest' into Special Areas of Conservation. Required measures are then adopted to improve the status of habitats and species present on these sites.

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To date, Ireland has formally designated only a 'minor proportion' of its sites, and has not yet established the required conservation objectives and measures for all of the remaining sites, according to the Commission.

'This significant gap in the compliance with the key obligations under the Habitats Directive prevents the sound protection and management of the sites, and constitutes a major threat to an appropriate functioning and the coherence of the Natura 2000 network as a whole.'

Ireland has two months to reply. Failure to act could result in the Commission taking the matter to the EU Court of Justice.

The Department of Environment, Community and Local Government was invited to respond; none was received.

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