TALLINN - In its response to the European Commission initiating infringement proceedings against Estonia over the local Natura 2000 sites, the Estonian Ministry of the Environment said that it does not agree with all of the Commission's criticism but will definitely introduce the legal amendments needed for eliminating the shortcomings.
Having initiated infringement proceedings in June, the European Commission wants Estonia to respond to five complaints, spokespeople for the ministry said on Thursday. The Commission has criticized Estonia for not fully implementing the EU's environmental impact assessment requirements in its national laws and for failing to adequately assess economic activities with potential negative impact on the Natura 2000 areas, such as logging.
The Ministry of the Environment explains it positions in its reply and points out that the effects of the activities are, in fact, being assessed during their planning phase.
Deputy secretary general of the Ministry of the Environment Marku Lamp said that the ministry is specifying the relevant legislation to ensure that the practice for operating on Natura 2000 areas be clear and unambiguous. The bill geared at amending the law will be developed by the ministry by the end of this year and the bill is planned to take effect at the end of 2022.
"There are several complaints that we do not completely agree with, however," Lamp said. "We cannot disclose the details of our answer because the European Commission has designated the proceedings pertaining to this document as strictly for internal use only."
The European Commission does not disclose notifications sent as part of infringement proceedings as the process can culminate in the EU Court of Justice. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained that the infringement proceedings constitute a dialogue between the member state and the Commission in the course of which the disagreements emerging during the transposition of laws into national legislation are negotiated. It is a process of negotiation and disclosing information in the written stage of the infringement proceedings can compromise the course the negotiations.
Lamp said that the shared goal in the matter is the protection of valuable habitats and expressed hope that an agreement will soon be reached with the Commission in terms of this goal. Estonia will send its replies to the European Commission at the end of September.