The European Commission is sending a reasoned opinion to Cyprus and another 14 member states calling them to implement provisions on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species.
The Commission’s regular package of infringement decisions for February 202, released on Wednesday, also includes two letters of formal notice sent to Cyprus, concerning the need to update flood risk maps and to transpose EU rules to fight fraud against the Union’s budget.
The package also includes references to two open infringement procedures against multiple member states, including Cyprus, due to the decision to send reasoned opinions to additional member states on EU rules to protect whistle-blowers and the European Arrest Warrant.
Prevention and management of invasive alien species
The Commission has sent a reasoned opinion to Cyprus and another 14 member states (Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia) to implement various provisions of Regulation 1143/2014 on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species.
The reasoned opinion is the last stage before the Commission having the option to refer a case of infringement to the Court of Justice of the EU.
Invasive alien species are plants and animals which, as a result of human intervention, are introduced accidentally or deliberately into a natural environment where they are not normally found. This has serious negative consequences for their new environment. They are one of the five major causes of biodiversity loss in Europe and worldwide and addressing them is an important aspect of the EU`s aim to halt biodiversity loss as articulated in the European Green Deal and the European Biodiversity Strategy for 2030.
The 15 Member States concerned have failed to establish, implement and communicate to the Commission an action plan (or a set of action plans) to address the most important pathways of introduction and spread of invasive alien species of concern for the EU.
The Commission had sent letters of formal notice to 18 Member States in June 2021. As the responses received from 15 of those Member States were unsatisfactory, the Commission has decided to issue reasoned opinions. Member States now have two months to respond and take the necessary measures. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the cases to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Flood Hazard Maps and Flood Risk Maps
The Commission is also sending letters of formal notice to Cyprus and another six countries (Bulgaria, Greece, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Romania and Slovakia) calling the member states to update their Flood Hazard Maps and Flood Risk Maps as required by the Floods Directive (2007/60/EC) on the assessment and management of flood risks.
The letter of formal notice is the first stage of the infringement procedure of the European Commission.
Flood Hazard Maps should cover the geographical areas which could be flooded, whereas Flood Risk Maps show the potential negative consequences associated with these flood scenarios. These maps form the basis for the drafting of Flood Risk Management Plans.
Member States were required to report on the updates they made to their first Flood Hazard Maps and Flood Risk Maps by December 2019. The deadline for informing the Commission about the review and updating expired in March 2020.
The seven Member States now have two months to respond to the letter and address the shortcomings raised by the Commission. Otherwise the Commission may decide to issue a reasoned opinion.
EU rules to fight fraud against the Union`s budget
Cyprus has also been sent a letter of formal notice, along with Belgium, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden, because the country did not correctly transpose EU rules on the fight against fraud to the Union`s financial interests by means of criminal law (Directive (EU) 2017/1371).
These rules, which are part of the Commission`s overall anti-fraud strategy, protect the EU`s budget by harmonising the definitions, sanctions, jurisdiction rules, and limitation periods related to fraud and other offences affecting the EU`s financial interests.
A proper transposition of those rules by the Member States is necessary to enable the European Public Prosecutor`s Office to conduct effective investigations and prosecutions.
The deadline to transpose the Directive into national law expired on 6 July 2019. In December 2021, letters of formal notice were already sent to Croatia, Finland, Greece, Latvia, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania and Spain.
The Member States concerned have two months now to reply to the arguments raised by the Commission. After assessing their replies, the Commission may decide to send a reasoned opinion if the conformity issues will not be suitably solved or clarified.