Thank you for your email regarding the nomination of Karmenu Vella as Commissioner-designate for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.
Let me assure you that I share your concerns on this matter. Labour MEPs have for some time been pushing the European Commission to take action on illegal bird hunting in several Mediterranean countries and to ensure the Maltese Government is fully enforcing the provisions of the Birds Directive. Earlier this year I submitted a written question to the Commission regarding illegal bird hunting; I have also co-signed a number of letters with BirdLife Malta, calling on the Commission to take urgent action on Malta's decision to open spring and autumn hunting seasons. I was pleased that the Maltese government recently decided to abandon plans to allow finch-trapping to go ahead, a practice which was originally out-lawed in Malta as part of the country's EU Accession Agreement. However, I believe the European Commission needs to do much more if we are to save endangered species from being hunted to extinction.
Labour MEPs were therefore extremely surprised when the Maltese Commissioner was nominated for this position, with responsibility for biodiversity and overseeing a possible revision of the Birds and Habitats Directives. I can assure you that this issue was raised during the scrutiny hearing in the European Parliament's Environment committee. If you would like to watch the hearing, a video is available here:
The EU, although falling short of where it should be, is a world-leader when it comes to environmental and wildlife protection. It would be very short-sighted if the proposed Commission were to row back on some of the protections in place.
However, if confirmed as Commissioner, Mr Vella will not be representing the interests of Malta, but the interests of the European Union as a whole. I was pleased to hear Mr Vellaemphasise this in his hearing and reiterate that he condemns illegal hunting and will work to enforce the provisions of the Birds Directive across Europe. However, as part of his portfolio, Mr Vella has been tasked with carrying out an in-depth evaluation of the Birds and Habitats Directives. I can assure you that Labour MEPs will follow any revision of these Directives very closely and we will work hard to ensure that there is no watering down of vital environmental and wildlife protection.
I hope you have found this information useful but if you have further questions on this, or any other matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Glenis Willmott MEP