Plans to prevent the introduction or halt the spread of “invasive alien species” of plants, animals or insects that cause ecological and economic damage were agreed by MEPs and the Greek Presidency of the Council on Wednesday. The draft legislation, which would require EU member states to coordinate their efforts, provides for a ban on species declared to be of “Union concern”.
“Invasive alien species cause damage worth at least €12 billion every year in Europe and many member states already have to spend considerable resources in dealing with them”, said MEP Pavel Poc (S&D, CZ) who is steering the legislation through Parliament.
“Their efforts are very often not effective simply because those species do not respect geographical borders. Cooperation between the member states is therefore crucial. The negotiations were very difficult and we had only limited time to strike a deal. That's why I am happy to say that today's negotiations were successful” he added.
The draft legislation will require EU member states to carry out an analysis of the pathways of introduction and spread of invasive alien species (IAS) and set up surveillance systems and action plans. Official checks at EU borders would also be stepped up. For IAS that are already widespread, member states would have to draw up management plans.
Alien species of “Union concern”
Species deemed to be of “Union concern” would be placed on a list of those that should not be introduced, transported, placed on the market, offered, kept, grown or released into the environment.
The Presidency accepted Parliament’s view that the IAS list should not be capped at only 50 species. Priority on the list would go to IAS which are expected to become a problem and those that cause the most damage. MEPs also inserted provisions for tackling IAS of concern for single member states. Species that are native to a part of the EU but begin to invade others would be tackled through enhanced regional cooperation between member states, facilitated by the European Commission.
Member states would have to decide appropriate penalties for breaches of the legislation. Where authorised by the Commission, they could grant specialized establishments permits to carry out certain commercial activities with IAS.
MEPs also insisted that a dedicated scientific forum should be established to advise on the scientific aspects of enforcing the new rules, and on applying the “polluter pays” principle to the recovery of restoration costs.
According to the European Commission, IAS are a major and growing cause of biodiversity loss and species extinction. They can be vectors of diseases or themselves cause health problems such as asthma, dermatitis and allergies. They can also damage infrastructure and facilities, hamper forestry and cause agricultural losses. IAS cost the EU an estimated €12 billion per year.
If endorsed by the committee of member states’ permanent representatives (COREPER) on Friday 7 March, the agreement is to be put to a vote in the Environment Committee on 19 March.
In the chair: Matthias Groote (S&D, DE)