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World’s most endangered cat species threatened by EU funds


03 Mar 2006, Brussels, Belgium / Gland, Switzerland – European Union funds are being used to build roads and dams that are destroying the habitat of the Iberian lynx, the world’s most endangered cat species.

In Spain, the remaining Iberian lynx population — with around 100 individuals left, including just 25 breeding females — is under major threat due to loss and fragmentation of its habitat. New construction works will hamper efforts to conserve the endangered cat.

A new WWF report, Conflicting EU funds, shows that despite the EU’s commitment to halt biodiversity loss by 2010, vast sums of European Union money are being spent on roads, dams and irrigation schemes which threaten critically endangered species and key habitats in Europe. In many cases, EU funds are being used for activities that are recognised as major threats by the EU itself.

“Europe has to take responsibility for its own species, but at present the European Union is using its funds to both support biodiversity and undermine it,” says Stefanie Lang, Regional Policy Officer at WWF’s European Policy Office. “This is an unacceptable situation caused by wrong decisions at national or regional level and poor coordination between Member States and the European Commission.”

As the EU is shaping new funding regulations for the period 2007–2013, the report presents eight case studies where competing plans funded by the EU are damaging biodiversity.

In Spain, EU funds are used for infrastructure, such as 20 dams and 16 roads, including the new highway Toledo-Ciudad Real-Puertollano-Cordoba, that will have a detrimental impact on lynx habitat protected under the Natura 2000 network.

Similarly, EU funds have been used to overexploit bluefin tuna fisheries in the Mediterranean, and to promote damaging agricultural subsidies which have resulted in the mismanagement of cork oak forests in Portugal.

In Greece, while the EU Commission Directorate General (DG) responsible for the environment is supporting a LIFE project to protect brown bears, the DG Regional Development is funding the planned Egnatia Highway, which directly threatens these animals.

WWF urges the EU to withdraw funds that conflict with biodiversity goals and EU environmental legislation ,and says that EU funds must include priority measures to protect biodiversity and Natura 2000 sites. WWF also recommends that EU Member States develop good national programmes that contribute to the 2010 goal.

“If we are to halt the loss of biodiversity and preserve the remaining natural heritage of Europe, which is essential for long term economic prosperity, the EU cannot afford to continue funding the destruction of habitats and environmentally damaging infrastructures as it has in the past,” says Gerald Dick of WWF’s Global Species Programme.


• The eight case studies in the report are: Agricultural Subsidies and Cork Oak Ecosystems, Portugal; Threats to the Iberian Lynx, Spain; Brown Bears and the Egnatia Highway, Greece; Fisheries Funds and Tuna Farming, the Mediterranean; Via Baltica and Natura 2000, Poland; Navigation on the Danube and Natura 2000; Odelouca Dam and the Monichique Natura 2000 site, Portugal; and Western Algarve
Biodiversity and Irrigation, Spain.

• In the coming months, EU Institutions will decide on the European Fisheries Fund (Fisheries Council in April), the LIFE+ regulation (Environment Council in March and June) and the guidelines for Structural Funds. The European Commission is expected to publish in April a communication on biodiversity, with a roadmap to halt biodiversity loss in the EU by 2010.

• In 2004, the Structural and Cohesion Funds accounted for 34% of the total EU budget, while the LIFE-Nature budget accounted for only 0,06%.


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