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Germany violated nature conservation law, rules EU top court

September 21, 2023

Germany must now pay fines after failing to establish special conservation areas, or create plans to maintain the protected habitats. The law aims to protect wild animals and plants and restore biodiversity.

A view of the UNESCO bio-sphere reserve Elbaue bei Darchau in Germany
Germany has been found to have violated an EU law on protecting natural habitatsImage: Markus Beck/imageBROKER/picture alliance

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Thursday that Germany had indeed violated an EU nature and conservation law by not sufficiently implementing a regulation to protect natural habitats.

The European Commission sued Germany back in 2021, as well as several other EU member states, for failing to abide by the EU directive.

Thursday's ECJ decision means Berlin now faces hefty fines. The ruling, however, did not detail exactly how high the fines would be.

What was the ECJ's ruling?

The argument of the European Commission was that Germany had not set a sufficient number of conservation targets.

These targets are meant to protect or restore populations of certain wild animals, insects and plants living in certain areas.

The court agreed that Germany had failed to designate 88 out of 4,606 sites as special conservation areas in time.

Another 707 sites were lacking obligatory conservation targets as foreseen by the EU law.

The nature and conservation law seeks to protect and restore biodiversity by protecting the habitats of local flora and fauna. In recent years, the Commission has stepped up its enforcement of the bloc's environmental laws in an effort to combat climate change.

The court, however, disagreed with the Commission on several of its other complaints.

The ECJ has previously ruled against other member states over violating the conservation law. In 2019 and 2020, it ruled that Portugal and Greece respectively had not carried out their obligations in this area.

ab/rs (dpa, AFP)

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