Protecting birds in the Llobregat Delta (Catalonia, Spain)

21 March 2013    
Willy Meyer (GUE/NGL)



The Llobregat Delta, situated to the south of the city of Barcelona, has suffered the pressure of the development of this metropolis throughout the 20th century. Nevertheless, a significant area of the Delta has been preserved and it is listed as a wetland of national importance. Currently, the most remote natural and agricultural areas providing shelter to fauna threatened with extinction continue to be threatened by the actions of the Barcelona El Prat airport, the port of Barcelona and numerous urban projects planned in areas of great and internationally recognised ecological value. This is within the context of the Mediterranean, where wetlands are extremely scarce and of vital importance for migrating birds on the continent.

The strategic siting of the wetland has made it an essential stop for migrating birds in Europe, although the biological value of the area has not been reflected in the way it has been treated during the urban development of the Barcelona metropolitan area. However, the area is home to important populations of Little Bitterns, Storks, Little Terns, Audouin’s Gulls and 66 other species of bird included in Annex I to the Birds Directive (2009/147/EC), which in many cases are outside protected areas and are affected by these projects.

The Spanish Government has failed to comply with various articles of the Birds Directive by not taking sufficient measures to preserve the populations that live in the Delta and are listed in the aforementioned Annex, and enable them to adapt, as well as not designating sufficient areas for reproduction and rest for these species. The Catalonian Government, to whom these competencies fall, has also contravened Directive 2009/147/EC by giving precedence to urban criteria over scientific criteria when it comes to demarcating the areas to be protected. The Spanish authorities have also contravened the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) by not establishing a specific plan for the area’s natural resources, despite the commitment made to the Commission in the Environmental Impact Statement for the expansion of the Barcelona El Prat airport over 10 years ago.

Has the Commission investigated whether the competent state authorities have complied with the commitments made in the Environmental Impact Statement for the expansion of the airport?

Does the Commission believe that Articles 2, 3 and 4 of Directive 2009/147/EC, as well as Directive 92/43/EEC, have been complied with in this natural area?

Has the Commission considered initiating an infringement procedure against Spain in relation to this case? 

Answer given by Mr Potočnik on behalf of the Commission

24 April 2013

The Commission is currently assessing the facts raised by the Honorable Member within the framework of a complaint concerning the protection of birds in the Llobregat Delta (reference no CHAP(2013)01037). This complaint procedure was opened in order to verify compliance with the commitments made by the Spanish authorities in the Environmental Impact Statement for the expansion of the airport Barcelona El Prat, as well as compliance with the provisions of the Birds Directive(1) for the Llobregat Delta.

In light of the conclusions of the current assessment, the Commission will decide if further action is needed.

(1)    Directive 2009/147/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 30 November 2009, on the conservation of wild birds (OJ L 20/7, 26.1.2010).