EU Commission

FIE has welcomed the first Supreme Court referral to the European Court of Justice to determine the future of the Galway By-Pass. At issue is what is meant by "adverse impact" on the "integrity" of a protected site and particularly to define what is meant by "integrity". We hope the reference marks the end of the Irish courts' cosy practice of deciding that the correct interpretation of a relevant point of EU law before them is obvious so that it is unnecessary to refer the relevant question of interpretation to the ECJ - which is typically much more pro-environment than the Irish courts.

PRESS RELEASE
FRIENDS OF THE IRISH ENVIRONMENT
4 June 2010


Galway By-Pass - Supreme Court decision to end ‘cosy practice'?


The environmental lobby group Friends of the Irish Environment welcomed yesterday's decision of the Supreme Court to refer An Bord Pleanála's approval for the €317 million Galway city outer bypass road to the European Court of Justice.

‘This first reference of an Irish environmental case to the European Court has the potential to greatly strengthen environmental protection in Ireland'.

The purpose of the preliminary reference procedure is to allow national courts to ask the European Court of Justice for a definitive interpretation of tricky points of EU law. The ECJ is asked to give a ruling on the correct interpretation of the point of EU law at issue. The case then reverts to the national court to be decided in light of the ECJ's interpretation.

At issue is what is meant by "adverse impact" on the "integrity" of a protected site and particularly to define what is meant by "integrity".

We hope this reference marks the end of the Irish courts' cosy practice of deciding that the correct interpretation of a relevant point of EU law before them is obvious so that it is unnecessary to refer the relevant question of interpretation to the ECJ - which is typically much more pro-environment than the Irish courts.

Credit: spokesman
Verification and comment: Tony Lowes / 087 2176316 / 027 74771

http://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/friendswork/index.php?do=friendswork&action=view&id=846

As the review date for the submission to the Review of the CAP policy closes, 19 Irish environmental groups have jointly called on the Commission to recognise and provider tools to protect the ‘public goods' - water quality, soil, landscapes, archaeology and biodiversity.

‘Citizens do not expect that biodiversity, soils, and water will be damaged by adverse management practices such as the burning of scrub, removal of field boundaries and inadequate riparian buffer zones which support many native species of flora and fauna', they write.

The removal of scrub by burning is particularly damaging - and voluntary schemes are not sufficient to address these issues which must be incorporated into Area Aid conditions.

Read the (short) submission


The European Commission today issued Ireland with a final warning to provide its citizen with access to justice that is not ‘prohibitively expensive'. ‘There is no doubt whatsoever that the potential financial consequences of losing legal challenges is preventing NGOs and individuals from bringing cases against public bodies and so denying citizens their legal rights as Irish citizens.'

Expensive and often unaffordable undertakings as to costs requiring large deposits is also a ‘serious impediment to the use of such injunctions, which are essential for temporarily halting operations that may have a potentially damaging impact on the environment while their legality is being assessed.'


Why do we need a European common agricultural policy?

We need a European common agricultural policy because we operate in a common market. The agricultural sector provides a basic requirement for human life - food. Although food produced from farming has a marketable value and can be traded as a commodity, many of the other potential benefits of agricultural land management are required by society at large, but have no determined value (e.g. water quality, soil condition, attractive landscapes, wildlife, well-treated and healthy livestock, etc.). These additional benefits compose "public goods" which are not given a value. Policy on a national scale may lead to distortions and insufficient attention to issues such as the environment, particularly as all European countries are competing against each other within the same market. Therefore, in order to secure food production while protecting natural resources and rewarding farmers for the delivery of public goods we need a European common agricultural policy.

What do citizens expect from agriculture?
EU citizens expect that agriculture should provide high-quality, affordable food, while ensuring the protection of biodiversity, water quality, soils, landscapes, and also contributing to combating climate change. Citizens also expect that such land management will have wider benefits to society, e.g. supporting rural populations through direct employment or indirectly (e.g. through tourism), provide recreational access to the countryside and protect important archaeological features. Scrub is often found in inaccessible locations or on abandoned or marginal farmland and is increasingly developing into transitional woodland on hillsides, riparian sites and bog margins. No fertilisation or drainage is required. Citizens do not expect that biodiversity, soils, and water will be damaged by adverse management practices such as the burning of scrub, removal of field boundaries and inadequate riparian buffer zones which support many native species of flora and fauna.

Why reform the CAP?
Public goods are being sacrificed for insignificant gains in agricultural production. In the River Basin District management plans the greatest cost to improve water quality is from agricultural sources. Soil erosion is an increasing problem. Removal of field boundaries and scrub has a negative effect on biodiversity & landscape. Removal of scrub by burning is very damaging. Recipients of the Single Payment Scheme are dependent on keeping their lands accessible to livestock or the land is ineligible for payment. A direct result of this has been that farmers are now justifying burning as a management tool required for economic reasons. But burning is an increasing economic and social problem in rural Ireland. It is damaging to wildlife and can lead to severe soil erosion and emissions of greenhouse gases. Without any permit system or requirement for farm burning management plans, it is estimated that the direct economic losses due to burning in Ireland was between €2m - €16m in the first 5 months of 2010 in loss of state forests alone. Protection of water bodies via adequate buffer zones is vital to meet the requirements of the Water Framework Directive.

What tools do we need for the CAP of tomorrow?
CAP tools need to protect the public goods. Adequate tools for scrub/transitional woodland, hedgerow and riparian zone protection are urgently required as they protect water, soils and biodiversity. ‘Desertification' where abandoned rural holdings would naturally revert to woodlands offer an opportunity ‘natural' method of afforestation There are no establishment costs and as the land is currently subject to grant aid there would be no additional costs to CAP. Encouraging Forestry Scrub/Transitional Woodlands would increase the forest estate as scrub (included in Ireland's definition of forest cover) comprises 4% of the total forested area with some counties holding 15% of their forested area in scrub. Scrub would increase the national carbon sink/store as well as providing durable building/joinery materials and a sustainable source of fuel. Voluntary agro-forestry schemes are not sufficient to address these issues which must be incorporated into Area Aid conditions.

 

An Taisce; Bat Conservation Ireland; BirdWatch Ireland; CELT; Feasta; Forest Friends; Friends of the Earth; FIE; Grian; Hedge Layers Association of Ireland; Irish Natural Forestry Foundation; Irish Seal Sanctuary; Irish Seed Savers; Irish Wildlife Trust; Just Forests; Native Woodland Trust; VOICE; Woodlands of Ireland; Sonairte

 

 

 

 

 

 


The European Commission today issued Ireland with a final warning to provide its citizen with access to justice that is not ‘prohibitively expensive'. ‘There is no doubt whatsoever that the potential financial consequences of losing legal challenges is preventing NGOs and individuals from bringing cases against public bodies and so denying citizens their legal rights as Irish citizens.'

Expensive and often unaffordable undertakings as to costs requiring large deposits is also a ‘serious impediment to the use of such injunctions, which are essential for temporarily halting operations that may have a potentially damaging impact on the environment while their legality is being assessed.'