Members of the European Parliament’s environment committee will vote today (30 January) on a proposal by the European Commission to draw up a list of ‘invasive alien species’ of plants and animals that have a negative impact on the environment in the European Union.
The proposal would establish the legal basis for species on the list to be banned, with the content to be decided at a later date, probably next year. But MEPs and member states are already trying to influence the scope of the list, its length, and who gets to decide which species are added.
There are more than 12,000 non-native species in Europe and the number is increasing rapidly. Non- indigenous species of plants and animals represent one of the main threats to Europe’s biodiversity, according to experts. Some of these plants and animals have no natural predators in Europe, so they can spread rapidly, to the detriment of indigenous species.
Pavel Poc, a Czech centre-left MEP who is guiding the legislation through the Parliament, has questioned why the Commission has proposed an initial limit of 50 species on the list. The Commission says it wants to have the limit in place in order to focus initial efforts on the most dangerous species. But Poc says the limit is arbitrary, “has no scientific base” and would lead to the EU failing to meet its international obligations.
Concerns have been raised over specific cases. For example, the Danish government fears that the north American mink could feature on the list, because escaped animals do cause damage in the wild. These animals are farmed for their fur in Denmark, the biggest producer of mink products in the world, and a ban could cost the economy an estimated €1 billion.
The UK is pushing for exceptions so that its horticulturalists can continue cultivating water hyacinth, an aquatic weed that other member states are trying to get rid of.
Environmentalists say such exceptions would make the legislation less effective. “Allowing exemptions for member states is like everyone mopping up the flood while one person leaves the tap flowing,” said Martina Mlinaric of campaign group EEB.
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