Tuesday 24 May 2022
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European Commission starts trial against more German environmental pollution

The European Commission has brought proceedings before the Court of Justice against Germany and Romania for insufficient protection of biodiversity in meadows and for environmental pollution. After previous letters, advice and warnings, Brussels is now turning it into a lawsuit. 

Germany also has other legal proceedings before the Court for negligence or violations of EU rules, including in the field of fertilization, nitrogen use and soil water pollution. In some cases, Berlin has already incurred millions of fines.

In October 2020, the European Commission warned the German government about non-compliance with the Flora-Fauna-Habitats Directive: the number of extensive hay meadows decreased due to German negligence. To protect biological diversity in the EU, the Habitats Directive requires EU countries to ensure that pastures are properly maintained.

Largely as a result of unsustainable farming practices, these habitat types have declined significantly or completely disappeared in recent years in several protected sites, Brussels insists. 

The federal Ministry of the Environment (BMU) rejected the allegation in late 2020. According to the ministry, Brussels is referring to incorrect or outdated data. According to the Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU), the European Commission mainly criticizes that no binding protective measures such as mowing or fertilization restrictions have been adopted. 

In its communication, the Commission refers to the European Green Deal and the EU biodiversity strategy. Flat hay meadows and mountain hay meadows are an important habitat for pollinators and are protected by the Natura 2000 law. However, Germany did not provide adequate legal protection for the pastures. 

The German nature conservation association NABU sees Germany as responsible and criticizes the intensive agricultural use, the conversion of grassland into arable land, the over-fertilization and the use of pesticides. According to NABU, about 18,000 hectares of hay meadows have disappeared. 

The new German coalition and the sixteen federal states are now being called upon to finally take nature conservation seriously and to make sufficient financial resources available for this. Farmers should be supported in the proper management and maintenance of the pastures. For a consistent implementation, a plan of action for protected gebieden must be drawn up. 

The European Commission has also decided to refer Romania to the Court of Justice in two cases – for failing to address industrial and air pollution. In addition, the European Commission is calling on Malta, Poland and Slovakia to comply with the EU rules for urban waste water treatment.

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