On 23 October 2020, the Slovak Ministry of Agriculture approved the hunting of wolves in Slovakia for the 2020/2021 season for a quota of 50 individuals.
On the basis of information about the process leading to this decision and findings from infringement proceedings No 2013/4081, which the Commission conducted against the Slovak Republic, it appears that there may have been a breach of the obligations stemming from Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (the Habitats Directive).
The aforementioned quota was not supported by relevant information about the abundance and state of the wolf population, which would ensure compliance with Articles 2 and 14 of the Habitats Directive, nor any information about the potential cross-border impact. The Slovak Republic, therefore, appears to be violating its obligations under the directive, contrary to its position in the infringement proceedings.
On 04 November 2020, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) Martin Hojsik (Renew), Vladimír Bilcík (PPE), Michal Wiezik (PPE), Robert Hajsel (S&D), Michal Simecka (Renew), Ivan Stefanec (PPE) and Lucia Duris Nicholsonova (ECR), raised a written parliamentary question to the European Commission. MEPs requested answers on “does the Commission regard the approval of wolf hunting in Slovakia for the 2020/2021 season by the Slovak Ministry of Agriculture as a violation of the Habitats Directive?” and “what steps will the Commission take in response to this decision in order to ensure compliance with EU legislation?”
On 03 December, Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius, responded on behalf of the European Commission. He reported that “Slovak wolf populations are not “strictly protected” and can be managed in accordance with Article 14 of the Habitats Directive, this means, that wolf specimens may be taken in the wild” and “they may thus be hunted if it is compatible with maintaining their population at a favourable conservation status”. He also stated that “in the framework of infringement proceedings No 2013/4081, Slovakia adopted a wolf management plan in 2016” and “the case was subsequently closed in December 2016”.
The Commissioner added that “this plan includes provisions for the monitoring of wolf populations, including on the basis of DNA analyses, which are essential in order to avoid double counting” and “the Commission understands that the results of these analyses by the State Nature Conservancy could be available in 2021 and provide a more solid foundation for setting the annual hunting quota”.
Commissioner Sinkevicius concluded that “it is for the Slovak authorities to ensure that hunting of wolves complies with the Habitats Directive and when doing so, the authorities must take into account all relevant information and apply the precautionary principle when available information is not conclusive” and “the Commission services will request further clarifications from the Slovak authorities concerning the basis for setting the hunting quota”.
Photo Credit : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Slovakia