The European Commission said on October 8 that it was bringing Romania before the European Court of Justice for the country's repeated failure to provide adequate protection for wild birds.
Home to 12 species that are globally threatened, Romania had to designate nature conservation areas to protect birds when it joined the European Union in 2007, but "has still not delivered on a number of commitments regarding nature conservation," the EC said. The Danube Delta alone hosts more than 320 bird species.
Over one million hectares initially pencilled in for protection have still not received the legal designation they require, nor have warning letters had the desired effect, according to the Commission.
"Birds are a barometer for biodiversity – so adequate protection of their habitats is vital. Biodiversity is a precious resource, and we squander it at our peril. I therefore urge Romania to make good these shortcomings and bring in the necessary protection immediately," EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said in the statement.
Romania has failed to classify a sufficient number of special protection areas for wild birds, which is obliged to do under the Birds Directive, one of the centrepieces of European nature protection legislation.
Romanian authorities designated 108 such areas after receiving a first warning from the Commission in October 2007, but 21 other areas were excluded. Additionally, the areas were much smaller than initially identified.
"The Commission sent Romania a second and final written warning in September 2008. Romania has made no formal commitment in reply and has still to complete the designation of protected areas. It is therefore being called before the European Court of Justice," the EC said.Under article 226 of the Treaty of Rome governing the way in which the EU functions, the EC can take legal action against a member state that is not respecting its obligations. The infringement procedure is started with the letters of formal notice, the first step, requiring a member state to submit its justifications by a specified date, usually 60 days. It is followed by the second and final warning, the "reasoned opinion", after which the EC can take its case to the European Court of Justice.