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Parliamentary questions
23 April 2018
E-001191/2018
Answer given by Mr Vella on behalf of the Commission

Epirus hosts a large number of Natura 2000 protected sites. It is up to the Greek competent authorities to assess whether the hydrocarbon exploration works referred to by the Honourable Member are compatible with the conservation of the sites. In particular, according to Article 6(3) of the Habitats Directive(1), the planned works have to be subject to an appropriate assessment of their implications for any sites likely to be affected. In light of the assessment and any suitable mitigation measures, the works can only be authorised if it is ascertained that they will not affect the integrity of the sites, or subject to the specific conditions of Article 6(4) of the directive. This assessment needs to consider all aspects of the works and their cumulative impacts, and take into account any management plans for the areas.

The project could fall under the scope of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive(2), which also transposes public participation requirements of the Aarhus Convention into EC law. Article 6 of the EIA Directive sets out the information and participation rights of the public, and its Article 11 ensures that the decision of the authorities can be reviewed by a national court. Furthermore, Directive 2003/4/EC(3) provides for environmental information to be supplied by public authorities upon request (Article 3) or through active dissemination (Article 7). It is for the Greek authorities to determine whether these Directives apply in this case according to the nature of the works and to their effects on the environment.

The declassification of a Natura 2000 area may only be considered if this is warranted by natural developments according to Article 9 of the Habitats Directive and not as a result of a damaging activity.

(1)Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora, OJ L 206, 22.7.1992, p. 7.
(2)Directive 2011/92/EU on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment, as amended by Directive 2014/52/E; OJ L 124, 25.4.2014, p. 1.
(3)Directive on Public Access to environmental information and repealing Council Directive 90/313/EEC; OJ L 41,14.2.2003, p. 26.

Last updated: 25 April 2018Legal notice