The Commission has called on Cyprus to take measures towards protecting Natura 2000 sites within two months, and could decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union if the country does not comply.
The decision was announced as part of the April infringement package, which contains another two reasoned opinions sent to Cyprus: one regarding the transposition of rules on clean vehicle targets and one on the transposition of rules on waste from ships to national law.
A reasoned opinion is the last stage of an infringement procedure before the Commission can choose to refer the case to the Court of Justice. An infringement procedure begins with a letter of formal notice, which gives the member state in question two months to respond before the Commission can move forward with sending a reasoned opinion.
For example, the April infringement package also contains a reasoned opinion sent to Malta regarding its investor citizenship scheme. Cyprus has received a reasoned opinion over the same issue in June 2021 and the process has remained open since.
Protection and management of Natura 2000 sites
In its first reasoned opinion for Cyprus, the Commission is calling on the country to take measures to protect and manage its Natura 2000 sites, and therefore to respect the obligations under the Habitats Directive (Directive 92/43/EEC).
Under this Directive, member states must designate areas that they have themselves selected as special areas of conservation, and establish conservation objectives and measures to maintain or restore the species and habitats in order to reach favourable conservation status.
The Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Cyprus in June 2021. However, to date, of the 37 areas concerned, conservation objectives have not yet been set for three special areas of conservation. Moreover, those set for the other 34 do not fulfil the requirements of the Habitats Directive, as they are either too vague or they do not properly identify the species targeted.
In addition, conservation measures have not been set for 33 SACs and those established for four SACs are too general to ensure an adequate protection of the species and habitats.
Cyprus has now two months to reply and take the necessary measures. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Transposition of rules on clean vehicle targets
The second reasoned opinion sent to Cyprus concerns the obligation of member states to transpose EU rules on the public procurement of clean vehicles (Directive (EU) 2019/1161). Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary and Sweden have also received reasoned opinions for this issue.
The Clean Vehicles Directive sets national targets for the public procurement of clean vehicles; the targets are set as a minimum share of clean vehicles within the total number of vehicles publicly procured in a Member State during the reference periods 2021-2025 and 2026-2030.
Separate targets are set for cars and vans, lorries, and buses, with a specific sub-target for zero-emission buses; the Directive gives Member States full flexibility to decide how the effort is distributed within their territory.
Member States needed to transpose the Directive into national law by 2 August 2021.
Those concerned now have two months to reply to the reasoned opinion, or the Commission may refer them to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Transposition of rules on waste from ships
The third reasoned opinion sent to Cyprus concerns the obligation of member states to transpose EU rules on waste from ships (Directive (EU) 2019/883). Austria, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden have also received reasoned opinions for this issue.
The Directive on port reception facilities is designed to prevent marine pollution from ships by ensuring that waste generated on board is not thrown into the sea but collected in ports, which must offer facilities to handle various types of waste so that it can be processed properly.
The provisions cover the adequacy of facilities, the types of waste to be collected, the reception and handling plans that all ports must have, and the obligation to inspect 15% of the ships calling at a Member State`s ports.
Member States had to transpose the Directive into national law by 28 June 2021. These Member States now have two months to reply to the reasoned opinion, or the Commission may refer them to the Court of Justice of the European Union.