Measures to stop invasive alien species of plants animals or insects getting into the EU, or limit the ecological and economic damage caused by those that do, were backed by Parliament on Wednesday. The legislation bans species declared to be of “Union concern” and requires more and better-coordinated action by member states to tackle the threat.
“Invasive alien species cause damage worth at least €12 billion every year in the EU and many member states already have to spend considerable resources in dealing with them”, said MEP Pavel Poc (S&D, CZ) who steered the legislation through Parliament. His report was approved by 606 votes to 36, with 4 abstentions.
“Their efforts are very often not effective simply because these the spread of these species does not stop at national borders. Cooperation among the member states is therefore crucial. The negotiations were very difficult and we had only limited time to strike a deal”, he added.
The legislation would require EU member states to ascertain the routes 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 widespread IAS, member states would have to draw up management plans.
Alien species of “Union concern”
Species to be listed as being of “Union concern” should not be introduced, transported, placed on the market, kept, bred, grown or released in the environment, says the text.
In negotiations, the Council of Ministers agreed to Parliament’s request that the IAS list should not be capped at just 50 species, as originally proposed. This open list would prioritise species which are an emerging issue and those that cause the most significant damage. MEPs also inserted provisions to tackle IAS that are of concern for single member states, while those that are native to only part of the EU are to be tackled by means of enhanced regional cooperation among member states, facilitated by the European Commission.
Member states would have to define appropriate penalties for breaches of the legislation. Where authorised by the Commission, they could nonetheless grant specialized establishments permits to carry out certain commercial activities with IAS. MEPs also insisted that a dedicated scientific forum must be set up to advise on the scientific aspects of applying the new rules and the “polluter pays” principle for the recovery of restoration costs.
According to the European Commission, IAS are a major and growing cause of biodiversity loss and species extinction. IAS can also be vectors of diseases or directly cause health problems (e.g. asthma, dermatitis and allergies). They can damage infrastructure and facilities, hamper forestry or cause agricultural losses. IAS are estimated to cost the EU at least €12 billion per year.
The legislation now needs to be formally approved by the Council of Ministers.
Procedure: Co-decision, first reading agreement