The European Court of Justice announced (4 March 2021) that Sweden has not given sufficient consideration to species covered by the Habitats Directive. Stricter requirements when conducting interventions that affect the natural environment, such as wind turbines, road construction and forestry are now expected.
“Protect the Forest Sweden has repeatedly brought this matter forward over the last four years, and we are happy that the European Court of Justice has made it clear that Sweden has failed to act. We trust that Sweden will take the protection of species seriously from now on. As an EU member state we should set an example for species conservation, rather than continue on the current destructive trajectory,” said Elin Götmark, spokesperson for Protect the Forest Sweden.
“The ruling emphasizes that the Swedish state must implement concrete and specific protective measures for species on the Birds and Habitats Directive list. The authorities responsible did not do so in this case, even though they were aware of the protected species depending on the forest,” said Elin Götmark.
When Protect the Forest Sweden appealed a logging plan in 2017, the issue eventually went all the way up to the European Court of Justice. The Court ruled that Sweden did not comply with EU legislation.
“The European Court of Justice states and clarifies that the protection for the Habitats Directive species applies even if they have a favourable conservation status. Sweden has until now managed to get away with an interpretation that favours continued exploitation through forestry. The European Court now clearly states this interpretation to be incorrect. Responsible authorities will now have to raise their standards regarding different types of precautionary measures,” said Lina Burnelius Project leader and international coordinator, Protect the Forest Sweden.
“The European Court of Justice highlights the inadequate management by the authorities in connection with forestry measures and that forestry in Sweden must be carried out in another manner in order to become compatible with the both the Birds and Habitats Directives and with the EU law,” said Lina Burnelius.
The verdict must be seen in the light of the prevailing global critical condition for biodiversity. Researchers describe the species depletion crisis as a sixth mass extinction where a very large number of species risk disappearing. Loss of biodiversity is something that threatens our own survival.
“The ruling is in line with the prevailing international and national climate and biodiversity emergencies. Sweden’s practice of exempting species with a favourable conservation status from species protection no longer holds. I must add, this is a wonderful day for everyone who stands up for the importance of healthy forests and their bedrock of life,” concluded Lina Burnelius.
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The verdict can be found here (in Swedish).