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Failure to ensure the strict protection of the common wall lizard in the Netherlands (Maastricht)

Question écrite de Mme Anja HAZEKAMP - Commission européenne

Question de Mme Anja HAZEKAMP,

Diffusée le 6 mars 2024

Subject: Failure to ensure the strict protection of the common wall lizard in the Netherlands (Maastricht)

The common wall lizard is classified as a strictly protected animal species under the Habitats Directive and the Bern Convention. The species is threatened with extinction. In the Netherlands, the common wall lizard is found in one location only, namely the Frontenpark in Maastricht.

Although (strictly) protected species live in the Frontenpark, the municipality of Maastricht wants to build a temporary multi-storey car park. This will have three floors and, owing to its height, will deprive the habitat of the wall lizard and other species such as the slow worm of sunlight, which is vital for these species. No full impact assessment has been carried out for the entire habitat and no exemption was requested for disturbing the strictly protected common wall lizard.

1. Can the Commission confirm that the authorisation of a construction that causes a disturbance of a priority species such as the common wall lizard – without a full impact assessment or exemption – is contrary to the obligations stemming from the Habitats Directive?

2. What actions can the Commission take to ensure the protection of the common wall lizard now that the building permit has already been granted?

3. What actions can the Commission take if the Netherlands does not ensure the strict protection of this priority species, and is an infringement procedure possible?


Réponse - Commission européenne

Diffusée le 22 mai 2024

Answer given by Mr Sinkevičius on behalf of the European Commission (23 May 2024)

1. The common wall lizard is listed in Annex IV of the Habitats Directive (1). For such species, Member States must put in place a legal protection regime that prohibits, amongst others, any deterioration or destruction of its breeding sites or resting places. Member States may only derogate from this legal protection for specific reasons listed in Article 16 of the directive, and if an assessment of the impact shows that there is no satisfactory alternative and that the derogation is not detrimental to the maintenance of the species’ populations at a favourable conservation status in their natural range. Furthermore, under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive (2), Member States shall determine whether projects falling under Annex II, including car parks, are likely to have significant effects. If the determination establishes such effects, including on strictly protected species under the Habitats Directive, an EIA is to be carried out.

2. and 3. The Commission has no power to stop the implementation of a building permit that has been granted by the competent authorities of a Member State. Member States are primarily responsible for the correct application of EU law. In the case of national decisions under the scope of the Habitats Directive, Member States shall ensure effective means of access by the public to national courts, including the right to request for an injunction (3). This is fully consistent with the Commission’s strategic approach on launching infringement cases, focused on cases of systemic non-compliance (4).

1 ∙ ⸱ Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora, OJ L 206, 22.7.1992, p. 7-50.

2 ∙ ⸱ Directive 2011/92/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private

projects on the environment, OJ L 26, 28.1.2012, p. 1-21. 3 ∙ ⸱

National rules available to the public on access to justice in environmental matters in the Netherlands: https://e- 4 ∙ ⸱ As set out in the communication of 19 January 2017 (EU law: Better results through better application — C/2016/8600, OJ C 18, 19.1.2017, p. 10-20) and in the communication of 13 October 2022 COM(2022) 518 final — Enforcing EU law for a Europe that delivers.

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