Documents considered by the Committee on 5 February 2014 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents


3 Invasive alien species

(35299)

13457/13

COM(13) 620

Draft Regulation on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species
Legal base Article 192(1) TFEU; co-decision; QMV
Department Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Basis of consideration Minister's letter of 30 January 2014
Previous Committee Report HC 83-xvi (2013-14), chapter 5 (9 October 2013)
Discussion in Council See para 3.9 below
Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decision Not cleared; further information awaited

Background

3.1 invasive alien species are those whose survival, reproduction and spread have adverse impacts on the ecology of their new location, as well as serious economic and social consequences. Consequently, in line with the international commitments adopted by the parties to the Nagoya Convention, the EU's Strategy in this area has sought to identify and prioritise such species, to control or eradicate them, and to prevent their introduction and spread. However, there is currently no EU framework for tackling them comprehensively, and the Commission says that Member States actions remain predominantly reactive, paying insufficient attention to the detection and prevention of new threats, and are fragmented and often poorly coordinated.

3.2 It therefore put forward in September 2013 this draft Regulation, which seeks to establish a framework to prevent and mitigate the adverse impacts of invasive alien species on biodiversity and ecosystems, and to limit social and economic damage. More specifically, it would involve:

·  the adoption by the Commission of a list of up to 50 "species of Union concern" where an impact assessment has demonstrated that concerted action at EU level is needed;

·  a ban on any such species being brought into or transited through EU territory, on its reproduction, on its transportation (except to facilities for eradication), on its placing on the market, and on its release into the environment;

·  enabling a Member State to take emergency measures, where it has evidence of a threat from a species which is not on the Union list, and to ban its release into the environment if it considers this would have an adverse impact within its territory;

·  requiring Member States to analyse how invasive alien species might be unintentionally introduced and spread, and to establish an action plan to address this;

·  requiring Member States to have in place an official surveillance system for invasive alien species, and to use this to support the early detection of those of Union concern, and to apply rapid eradication measures;

·  requiring Member States to have in place structures to carry out official border controls in order to prevent the intentional introduction of alien species of Union concern; and

·  requiring Member States to put in place management measures for those species on the list of those of European concern which are not susceptible to eradication, and to take proportionate measures to restore damaged ecosystems.

3.3 As we noted in our Report of 9 October 2013, the Government recognises the threat which invasive alien species pose both to biodiversity and economic prosperity, and has pointed out that many of the mechanisms contained in the proposal are already incorporated in the GB Invasive Non-Native Species Strategy 2008 (and an All-Ireland Strategy). However, similar mechanisms do not exist consistently across the EU, and, as the problems associated with invasive alien species are increasing and are cross-border by nature, the Government supports the general principles of this proposal, although it says that it will be necessary to ensure that that a number of aspects are clear, proportionate and sensitive to national circumstances. In particular, the UK will be looking at how greater certainty can be achieved about the list of species which will be subject to the provisions (and the evidence on which they will be selected); whether a cap of the number of such species is justified; how species native to one Member State but alien and invasive to another can be subject to the proposed regime; how the proposed measures can take account of different national situations; how existing national restrictions would be viewed; how and when restoration measures will be expected; the extent to which international obligations to which the UK is not a party (such as the Ballast Water Convention) could be imposed by the proposed Regulation; and how consistency will be achieved with the package of proposals put forward last summer relating to animal and plant health proposals and the official control mechanism.

3.4 We commented that, in view of the environmental and economic damage which can result from the presence of alien invasive species, it clearly made sense for action to be taken to address this, and that, given the cross-border dimension involved, it seemed that the Commission had made a reasonable case for a measure of action to be taken at EU level. We also noted that much of what is proposed appeared to be consistent in principle with the approach currently adopted by the UK, the Government's main aim therefore being to clarify a number of detailed points. Consequently, although we did not see the proposal as giving rise to any major points of concern, we felt it was of sufficient importance to warrant a substantive Report to the House. We also believed it would be sensible to hold it under scrutiny, pending further information from the Government on the detailed points which it had said it would be pursuing in the forthcoming negotiations in Brussels.

Minister's letter of 30 January 2014

3.5 We have now received a letter of 30 January 2014 from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord de Mauley), in which he says that negotiations on the proposal have been rapid, but that, whilst several of the less controversial elements have been agreed, consensus has yet to be reached on several important points. Consequently, although the proposal will be presented to COREPER on 7 February ahead of planned trilogues, there is as yet no settled proposed Regulation.

3.6 In the meantime, he recalls that the Government's position is to support the general principles of the proposal, but that, in order to ensure that the regime introduced is clear, proportionate, recognises the principles of subsidiarity, and takes account of the objective of minimising administrative burdens and costs, it had identified a number of detailed negotiating objectives.

3.7 He says that, although the fast moving pace of the negotiations and revised texts means that it is not possible to be sure, he believes that the UK is within touching distance of achieving these objectives, and will continue to push for them at COREPER and beyond. In particular, he says that good progress has been achieved on a number issues highlighted earlier, there being broad acceptance that an arbitrary numerical cap on any species lists should not now occur; recognition of subsidiarity concerns (relating in particular to border controls and enforcement measures); the introduction of proportionality, as well as the polluter pays principle, for any restoration requirements; the right of Member States to maintain or take stricter domestic measures; the removal of references to the Ballast Water Convention; and greater clarity over how species will be selected for any list under the Regulation.

3.8 However, he says that, even at this late stage, there remain differences between several Member States regarding the treatment of invasive alien species which are native to one or more Member State, but invasive elsewhere, and how regional flexibility will be provided so that a "one size fits all" approach is not applied. Also, he says that Denmark has introduced a proposal to widen the derogations to allow high value agricultural species (in particular, mink) to be kept, bred and sold, and is concerned that, unless such a derogation is available only in exceptional circumstances, it would be unjustified under the precautionary principle, as it potentially exempts large volumes of trade, is too wide, and is unfair to other sectors which also have an economic value.

3.9 The Minister says that the Government is currently considering the latest Presidency text, which was circulated on 29 January, and also the amendments which the European Parliament's Environment Committee agreed on 30 January as the basis for their participation in the trilogues, which are expected to take place during the three weeks commencing 11 February. He adds that, if texts are agreed, they are likely to be presented to a plenary session of the Parliament and possibly to a Council meeting in April, and that he will write again once there is a settled text and a first reading deal has been agreed.

Conclusion

3.10 We are grateful to the Minister for this update, and have noted that good progress appears to have been made on a number of the UK's detailed negotiating objectives. However, it is also clear that certain concerns remain — including in particular the position of species which are native to one or more Member State, but invasive elsewhere, and the preservation of regional flexibility. In view of this, we are continuing to hold the document under scrutiny, and we would like to receive further progress reports as the negotiations unfold.


 
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