Applying EU Environmental Legislation in the Field of Marine Protection
What are the impacts of European infringement procedures regarding the non-compliance with nature conservation legislation? To what extent are infringement procedures capable of enforcing the implementation of this legislation? And, on the other hand, to what extent can protected areas contribute to fulfil the requirements of the nature conservation legislation by means of sustainable management with appropriate financing? In order to discuss these issues an international conference entitled "Applying EU Environmental Legislation in the Field of Marine and Coastal Protection" took place on the Ionian Island of Zakynthos on May 19th and 20th, 2003. The preparation and organisation was carried out by Ecologic in co-operation with the National Marine Park of Zakynthos.
The National Marine Park of Zakynthos protects an important nesting ground for the endangered loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), the symbol chosen for the conference. The Park was founded in December 1999 (as the first National Marine Park in Greece) in order to fulfil the required obligations of the judgement of the European Court of Justice regarding the appropriate protection of the loggerhead sea turtle.
In 1999, Greece was taken to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for the non-compliance with the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC, initiated mainly because of the various activities by non-government organisations, submitting official complaints and reports to the European Commission since 1993. Although the National Marine Park has made various efforts to implement conservation measures, it was nonetheless stated by the ECJ in January 2002 that Greece has failed to establish and implement an effective system of strict protection for the sea turtle. Following this, the Zakynthos case continued, leading to the submission of a letter of formal notice by the European Commission to Greece in December 2002.
Against this background the International Conference "Applying EU Environmental Legislation in the Field of Marine and Coastal Protection" were carried out by Ecologic in co-operation with the National Marine Park of Zakynthos. The Conference took place on the Ionian Island of Zakynthos on May 19th and 20th, 2003 within the framework of the current Greek Presidency of the European Union. The event was initially supported by the Bellagio Forum and Ecologic, as well as later by the European Commission (DG Environment) and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (Athens Office).
The main objectives of the international conference were:
- To examine procedures of non-compliance with the nature conservation legislation of the EU by looking at several European Court cases, with a focus on the court case of Zakynthos;
- To offer a forum to discuss possible actions to achieve compliance with European legislation and the overall aim of sustainable marine protection;
- To provide an opportunity to share best practices and to exchange experiences and know-how concerning the sustainable management of marine protected areas and financial instruments for nature conservation;
- To deliver results which are applicable to the development of the national park administration and an appropriate conservation strategy on Zakynthos.
The number of participants exceeded 80. About one quarter came from outside Greece, half from Zakynthos, and the rest from other areas of Greece. The conference brought together a wide range of actors, experts and decision-makers related to marine and coastal protection. This diverse group of participants represented the European Commission, the national administration of Greece (Ministries of the Environment, Spatial Planning and Public Works, Agriculture, and Mercantile Marine), research institutes, non-governmental organisations, national parks and other protected areas as well as local Greek communities.
As part of Ecologic's preparation for the workshop a background paper was written. The background paper consists of three parts. The first part outlines all relevant policies at the European level which have a direct or indirect influence on the coastal and marine environment. The second part presents the different kinds of non-judicial remedies and legal procedures in case of non-compliance with the EC-Treaty and European legislation. The last part highlights financial instruments for nature conservation in order to enforce actions and measures for the sustainable management of marine protected areas.
An Ecologic Brief has been published as an outcome of this project. It is available for download [pdf, 645 KB, English].