‘See you in court,’ BirdLife Malta warns as government defends trapping

FKNK president calls on European Commission to keep ‘spirit of the law’ in mind before deciding on whether to charge Malta in court over decision to reopen finch trapping season

The Maltese government’s defence of its decision to reopen a finch trapping season will land Malta in court, BirdLife Malta have warned. “It’s a case of ‘see you in court’ really,” BirdLife chief executive Steve Micklewright told MaltaToday. “The European Commission has made it very clear that they are ready to go all the way to end finch trapping in Malta.”

The government has confirmed that it will present an argument to the European Commission that Malta has the right to apply a derogation on trapping.

Finch trapping, outlawed by the EU Birds Directive, was re-introduced following Labour’s election to government in 2013. On 28 May, the EC issued a formal warning to Malta to end the finch trapping season, giving the government two months to respond. A day earlier, the Ornis Committee – the government’s consultative body on hunting – had recommended the opening of a finch trapping season for autumn 2015.

EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella and BirdLife had urged the government to ban finch trapping, warning that it would otherwise risk being charged at the European Court of Justice.

Yet a spokesperson for animal rights parliamentary secretary Roderick Galdes told MaltaToday that the government will address all the points raised by the EC in its formal warning and insist that Malta can properly apply a trapping derogation.

“Malta had agreed to phase out trapping as part of its EU accession treaty,” Micklewright said. “The European Commission has made it clear that a recreational trapping season is unacceptable in terms of EU law.”

He added that BirdLife Malta would now call on the European Commission to commence court proceedings against Malta and request a finch trapping injunction for the duration of the case.

The president of hunting lobby FKNK appealed to the European Commission to look at the situation in a “proportionate” manner and keep the “spirit of the law” in mind before making a decision on whether to take Malta to court.

“Malta is very poor in terms of game and we have had to bow our heads and accept stricter hunting parameters over the years,” Joe Perici Calascione told MaltaToday.

He added that it is possible that the European Commission changes its stance over Malta’s finch trapping season, drawing parallels to how it had recently closed an infringement proceeding for spring hunting.

“I hope the EC doesn’t take Malta to court but even if it does, then there’s no guarantee that it will win,” he said.

Article by Tim Diacono

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