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Opinion of the EU Advocate General, in Case C23/23 European Commission v Malta Derogation regime allowing the capture of finches

The Federation for Hunting and Conservation – Malta (FKNK) welcomes the Maltese Government and Minister Clint Camilleri’s strong political will in response to the Opinion of the EU Advocate General (AG) in the EU Case which the European Commission has filed against Malta for application of Research derogations in the Finches Government Project.  Minister Camilleri emphasised his personal commitment to continue defending the Case in the best interests of hunters and trappers.

As expected the Opinion concluded in favour of the Commission.

In the first instance, whilst acknowledging the non-binding bearing that this Opinion may have on the EU Court, the FKNK will await the final Court respective verdict which is expected later on this year.

Next, and notwithstanding the Opinion’s conclusion above, the FKNK notes a number of interesting comments made by the AG, such as:

  • that the Commission’s position that the objective of a research project must solely be a conservation objective cannot be accepted, adding that as long as the recreational trapping of birds is seen as a permitted judicious use of the recreational derogation, gathering data for the introduction of such derogation cannot be objected to for having an illegitimate objective and so Article 9(1)(b) of the Birds Directive must be construed as also permitting research for legitimate purposes other than conservation.

  • in its original design, the Finches Project indeed provided not only for the collection of data from already-ringed birds, but also for the ringing of all captured birds. However, because of the mistrust in the proposed project by the relevant ringing organisation – EURING, bird ringers active in Malta refused to participate in the project. In fact, a Europe-wide call for ringers, also made by the FKNK through its FACE membership, did not succeed.

  • the efficiency of the capturing method,…” – The traditional clap-nets vs mist nets.

  • Citizen Science is indeed an idea supported by the European Union, thus the participation of citizens should not be discriminatory, even if certain conditions for participation may be imposed. -     Indeed, BirdLife Malta EURING local bird-ringers were invited to participate, however, they refused.  This refusal may have ‘influenced’ the lack of participation of EURING’s Europe-wide ringers. And therefore “I can agree with Malta that the inclusion of persons previously participating in recreational trapping of finches does not in itself present a problem, and can even have an educational component,…”.

  • The numbers related to the last two years of the project implementation show the effective implementation controls in practice.

  • And finally, “It is not claimed that they (derogations) are not appropriate, only that they are less efficient.”

In light of all the above the FKNK is convinced of Malta’s Research derogation defence and, as always, will continue to offer its expert assistance to the Government as and when necessary.

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