Monday, 25 March 2019

Czechs face sanctions for not putting Labe valley on Natura list

ČTK |
5 February 2016

Prague, Feb 4 (CTK) - The Czech Republic may not be able to draw a part of EU subsidies for environment protection and some transport projects because the cabinet has not met the demand to include the Labe valley in north Bohemia in the EU system of protected valuable localities, the Arnika group told CTK on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the cabinet approved an extension of the Natura 2000 list of European protected localities. It did not add two localities on which the European Commission insisted, the Labe valley (Porta Bohemica) and the Slavikovy ostrovy near Prelouc, east Bohemia.

"We will notify the European Commission on the extension of the list now and based on its assessment it will be able to evaluate whether the extension is final," Environment Ministry spokeswoman Petra Roubickova said.

Jana Vitnerova, from the Arnika environmental group, said the Czech state may pay a fine and a daily penalty of 10,000 euros.

"It is an international scandal and an economic loss for the Czech Republic," Vitnerova said.

She said the Czech Republic promised to declare protected localities based on biological data irrespective of any investment project.

Lidove noviny (LN) wrote on Thursday that Prague backpedalled on the plan to list the Labe valley in reaction to protests from businesspeople and the region concerned.

The Czech Industry Confederation and the self-rule Usti nad Labem Region feared that if the area along the Czech northernmost reaches of the Labe were entered in Natura 2000, it would definitely prevent the construction of a lock and a weir at this section of the river, LN writes.

A lock and a weir are necessary to secure the permanent navigability of the Labe in this area where the river leaves Bohemia for Saxony north of Decin, the project's advocates argue.

Still before the cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Environment Minister Richard Brabec (ANO) unsuccessfully tried to persuade the other ministers that the lock and weir project need not be necessarily abandoned if the Labe valley were included in Natura 2000, LN says.

The EC has repeatedly asked for the listing of the locality mainly for the sake of the protection of the salmon and beaver, Brabec wrote in a document submitted to the cabinet.

For a similar reason, in order not to prevent the construction of a water corridor near Prelouc, dozens of kilometres upstream the Labe in east Bohemia, the government did not put the Slavikovy ostrovy locality on the Nature 2000 list, though it hosts the largest Czech population of the dusky large blue butterfly, the daily writes.

The cabinet did not list a third locality, the Neratov pond in north Moravia. The listing of the rest of the 50 localities proposed by the environmentalists has been approved, LN writes.

The Czech list of significant European localities was approved in 2005 and it was revised an extended twice, in 2009. On Wednesday, it was extended once again to include about 1,200 localities, the daily adds and 2012.

The EC launched pilot proceedings against the Czech Republic, which precedes the infringement proceeding over the violation of European law.

LN writes that the EC may challenge not only Prague's failure to include selected localities in Natura 2000 but also the fact that it took Prague over five years to make a decision. It may even file a lawsuit against the Czechs at the European Court of Justice, the paper writes.

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