In the build-up to this week’s public hearings in the European Parliament of European Commission candidates, one of the issues I’ve most been contacted on by constituents is illegal bird hunting in Malta (thanks to the visibility brought to the issue by Springwatchâ€™s Chris Packham). The many passionate emails and tweets I’ve received wanted to know whether the Maltese Commissioner-designate (Karmenu Vella), mooted as Environment Commissioner, intends to clamp down on illegal hunting, given that he is a former Maltese minister.
The issue of bird hunting (and in particular the better enforcement of the EU Birds Directive) was a well-visited topic in Vella’s hearing today, with many MEPs asking him questions on it. We got some surprisingly clear statements and promises out of him:
I am not a hunter and I condemn all illegal hunting. It is useless to enact new EU laws without fully implementing the existing ones, so I will do whatever it takes to make sure the directive is enforced equally across the EU.
The Commissioner-designate did hint that he would like to revisit the current legislation:
The EU Birds directive was a cornerstone in safeguarding Europe’s ecosystem, but it was adopted in 1979 and never revisited. I would like to revise the directive, taking into account scientific research advancements since then, without deregulating or weakening the existing directive.
Prior to the hearing, he had also stated in writing that he “will not hesitate to make full use of the Commission legal enforcement instruments to ensure compliance”.
Mr Vella’s clear commitment was good — and I doubt that any likely alternative Maltese nominee would do better — but as always, the devil will be in the detail of how well the directive is revised and enforced. I and many other MEPs will be watching carefully — and any revision of the directive will come before us, where a majority is likely to want to strengthen it.
Note to the reader: all quotes in italics were jotted down during the hearings and are not verbatim.