The European Parliament’s Environment Committee has dealt a huge blow to the European Commission’s plans to control invasive alien species by trying to amend it to allow member states to opt out of some of its provisions.
The Committee went beyond amendments proposed by the European Council and recommended allowing members state to unilaterally exempt themselves from general bans on the basis that such species are sometimes non-invasive, as well as on cost and proportionality grounds.
It wants to allow member states to authorize commercial activities involving species of concern, for example to allow mink farming and certain energy crops.
The proposed amendments would also allow member states derogations from obligations to restore degraded ecosystems where they judge costs disproportionate.
The Commission estimates invasive species are costing Europe around €12bn annually.
The Committee also agreed to recognise that some species can be invasive in parts of Europe while being native elsewhere and they accepted too the need for scientific rigour, stakeholder involvement and animal welfare.
But it proposed deletion of ships’ ballast water provisions, one of the biggest sources of invasive species internationally.
“The European Parliament’s decision to open the gates to an unlimited flood of exemptions undermines the ambition they showed in other areas,” said European Environmental Bureau senior policy officer Martina Mlinaric.
“By opting to allow derogations, the ENVI Committee chose to protect the interests of industries such as fur farming, energy crop production and horticulture instead of addressing the risks posed by the IAS, and shot down any chance of addressing this problem effectively in the EU.”
The Parliament will now negotiate with the Council which has, at least in theory, the power to restore some of the ambitions of the Commission’s proposal.
"It is shocking to see the Environment Committee caving in to the heavy lobbying by the fur industry, seeking to protect their lucrative production of American mink," said Ariel Brunner, head of EU policy at Birdlife Europe.