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Petitions about Akamas peninsula at European Parliament Committee in Brussels

The situation in the Akamas peninsula, following two petitions regarding alleged violations of EU environmental legislation as well as the development projects in the area, will be discussed by the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament on 14 February.

According to the official agenda of the Committee on Petitions (PETI), the discussions will take place in the presence of the petitioners by remote connection. Petition No 0288/2022 concerns “alleged violations of EU environmental legislation in the Akamas peninsula in Cyprus” and petition 0450/2022 on behalf of Terra Cypria concerns “the development projects on the Akamas peninsula”. Both petitions call for measures to protect biodiversity in the area.

In its response to PETI’s request for further information, the European Commission had recalled that an infringement procedure has been opened against Cyprus for its failure to set conservation objectives and measures, and that it will continue to monitor progress while retaining the option of referring the case to the Court of Justice of the EU. The Commission also notes that EU law does not prohibit projects in the area, but that any projects need to be carried out only after an appropriate environmental impact assessment.

According to the summary provided to the members of PETI, in the first petition (0288/2022), the petitioner “claims that the area has been facing pressures and threats on important habitats and endangered species listed in the annexes of the Birds Directive (79/409/EEC) and the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) for decades” and that “no effective and legally binding measures are yet in place to protect it, and the most recent government plans are expected to have devastating effects on the ecosystem, within a general context of incapacitated institutions, legislation gaps, inefficient governance and lack of transparency, in violation of EU legislation and fundamental rights”. The petitioner also “highlights that the actual texts of the draft local measures that will regulate zoning and development in the area were not available to the public.”

In the second petition (0450/2022) the petitioner “claims that the projects (cafes, restaurants, parking areas, roads, etc.) will increase the human presence, thereby endangering and disturbing various protected species and habitats listed under Directives 92/43/EEC and 2009/147/EU, such as sea turtles and birds, and will have a serious and irreversible impact on the Natura 2000 site”. The petitioner also points out “that restaurants and cafés have continued to operate illegally on or next to beaches hosting sea turtle nesting grounds, despite letters of formal notice and reasoned opinions that have already been issued regarding the area in question and in response to failure to take adequate protection measures for the entire Natura 2000 network, including the Akamas peninsula.”

The two petitions were declared admissible on 24th June 2022 and 22nd July 2022 respectively, after which PETI requested further information from the European Commission.

In its response, dated 10th May 2023, the Commission notes that it “is aware of the fact that the sites that have been designated by Cyprus either as Special Protection Areas (SPA under the Birds Directive) or as Sites of Community Importance (SCI under the Habitats Directive) and have thus been included in the European Natura 2000 network are not adequately protected.”

The Commission notes that according to the Habitats Directive “all SCI sites must not only be designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) within six years but adequate conservation objectives and measures must also be established for all these sites, including for the Natura 2000 site of Akamas”.

“As this has not be done, not only in the case of Akamas but in all SAC sites in Cyprus, the Commission decided to launch infringement proceedings against Cyprus (case 2021/2064). On 6 April 2022, the Commission sent a reasoned opinion to Cyprus. Cyprus has committed to establish adequate conservation objectives and measures for all sites and is currently working towards that objective” the Commission recalled, noting that it will continue to monitor progress and assist the authorities in whatever requests for technical assistance, but also retains the possibility to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU should it consider it necessary.

The Commission also notes that the fact that there are no conservation objectives and measures in the area does not mean that no project can be carried out there. According to the Habitats Directive, “in case a Natura 2000 site is likely to be significantly impacted by a plan or a project, then an appropriate assessment of the impacts must be carried out and the plan or project can only be authorised if it has been ascertained that they it will not adversely affect such a site.”

(Source: CNA)

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