MEPs and member state negotiators today (5 March) reached a deal to create a list of species banned in the European Union because they would be damaging to biodiversity or the environment.
The list of ‘invasive alien species’ from outside Europe has not been populated yet, but the legislation agreed today only enables the European Commission to add species to the list at a later date. Denmark and the UK were pushing for member states to be allowed derogations to the list if a species has economic importance, while Hungary asked for an exemption.
Denmark feared that the North American mink could feature on the list, and these animals are farmed for their fur in Denmark, the biggest producer of mink products in the world, and a ban could cost the economy an estimated €1 billion. The UK was concerned that horticulturalists would be blocked from cultivating water hyacinth, an aquatic weed that other member states are trying to get rid of. Hungary wanted to protect its false acacia, a staple crop for its honey bees and, in its view, a crucial element for its forestry industry.
Most other member states were not receptive to the idea of wide room for derogations. But the European Parliament’s environment committee voted in January to add exemptions to allow unilateral national derogations if a species is incapable of spreading or for economic reasons.
These amendments were rejected by member states and have been struck out from today’s deal. But the deal would still allow a possibility for commercial entities to continue activities involving species considered of being of “EU concern”, after prior authorisation from the Commission.
Though the Commission had proposed to cap the list at fifty species, MEPs and member states decided to remove this cap.
Martina Mlinaric, a policy adviser with environmental campaign group EEB, said the group welcomes that the widest derogations of the environment committee were rejected by member states. But she said the success or failure of the law will be determined in the implementation process.
“An injection of ambition will be needed during the implementation process, if the IAS Regulation as just agreed is to deliver on its objective of preventing, minimising and mitigating the adverse impacts of invasive alien species on biodiversity,” she said.
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The deal will need to be backed by the full Parliament plenary next month.