The Malta Independent 18 June 2024, Tuesday
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‘Spring hunting, trapping go hand in hand with protection of birds if done sustainably' - PL MEP

Semira Abbas Shalan Monday, 20 March 2023, 07:34 Last update: about 2 years ago

Semira Abbas Shalan reporting from Strasbourg

Spring hunting and trapping go hand in hand with the protection of birds and their habitats, if done in a sustainable manner, PL MEP Alex Agius Saliba said.

Agius Saliba spoke to The Malta Independent on Sunday on a number of matters occurring within the European Parliament, particularly in the plenary session in Strasbourg, where MEPs discussed and voted on several legislative proceedings in time before the next European Parliament elections in 2024.

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Malta is facing infringement proceedings initiated by the European Commission for allowing trapping on the pretext of scientific research, and for hunting derogations in breach of the Birds Directive.

Agius Saliba, a long-time fan of the hobby, was asked to comment on this, as certain aspects of the hobby go against EU rules.

“I don’t believe that spring hunting per se is against EU rules, if it is practised in a sustainable manner. This is a big mistake we make when it comes to conservation. Hunters and trappers play a very important role in conservation, which has also been accepted by the EU Commission,” Agius Saliba said.

He continued that hunters should not be excluded, and what we should be focusing on is having more research and studies assessing the current population of birds when it comes to opening and using new derogations.

“It is not an issue of closing down spring hunting completely, this was an issue voted on in a popular referendum in Malta, where people voted in a democratic way not to close down spring hunting. It should be maintained in a sustainable way by having proper enforcement, and a situation where an important part of our cultural heritage and tradition is continued to be enjoyed by a big part of our population,” he said.

Agius Saliba has recently called out European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, as well as the European People’s Party (EPP) for remaining silent, and ‘defending’ the Greek Conservative Government, who are currently under scrutiny for rife corruption, with protestors vouching in favour of rule of law.

He said that he called out Metsola’s and the EPP’s hypocrisy in defending the Greek government, by deflating the attention to the Steward Health Care scandal in Malta, where the hospitals concession was annulled by court.

“They have been very vociferous when it comes to issues in Malta, and there is nothing wrong with pointing out the rule of law, but this should not only be focused on Malta. We have a situation where the mobile phone of the Opposition Leader in Greece is being tapped – imagine if we had a situation like this in Malta, all the resolutions, debates and discussions we would have,” he said.

Agius Saliba added that Malta has always been open to delegation visits from the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), but the Greek government has blocked the Committee from discussing what is happening.

“Metsola also tried to deflate and stop a discussion from happening during this week’s plenary, and tried to do another debate on Malta’s Steward’s case,” he said, adding that in the Steward’s case, parliament has no competence, and the issue is being dealt with directly by Maltese courts, with government already proposing a way forward.

Agius Saliba spoke about the European Citizen’s Initiative on phasing out synthetic pesticides and creating a bee-friendly agriculture, which was led by the Committee of Petitions in the European Parliament.

The petition was assessed by the Petitions Committee, the European Parliament's Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) and Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) to then provide answers to the Commission, so that it comes up with a legislative proposal to ensure the safeguarding of bees within our ecosystem, he said.

Agius Saliba said that farmers are facing several threats aside from hazardous pesticides, such as droughts, adding that two years ago, the production of honey had come down to more than 80%.

“Due to a lack of rain, we have a situation where we were only producing 20% of the capacity we had managed to produce the year before,” he said

The fluctuations when it comes to climate change is also heavily impacting the production of honey and the sector, therefore it is really important for the Commission to aid our farmers, who lose a lot when it comes to climate change especially in geographical regions such as Malta,” Agius Saliba said.

On the issue of the Oriental hornet, which has been plaguing ecosystems across many countries, and has also been a reason for the declining population of bees, Agius Saliba said that he has requested for the EU Commission to provide financial aid for the trapping and containment of the hornet.

Agius Saliba was asked on where Malta stands on the energy performance of buildings directive, which was voted on in the plenary of last week.

“I voted against the position of the European Parliament when it comes to the Energy Performance of Buildings, as it did not take into consideration several burdens which would be put on the most vulnerable consumers,” he said.

Agius Saliba said that while it is acceptable to be strict when it comes to targets for public buildings, and to be ambitious with regards to the amount of CO2 emissions from buildings, it is not acceptable to exclude social housing, putting the burden on the vulnerable.

“The Parliament’s position did away with accepting the particular realities of a number of member states, for example the realities we have in Malta, as it has the highest level of population compared to our geographic limitations,” he said.

Agius Saliba added that the EU parliament ignored requests for derogations to be carried out in accordance to realities of different member states, and so he had no other option on voting against the EU parliament’s position.

The EP discussed a resolution demanding EU country to gradually increase their Minimum Income Schemes. Agius Saliba was asked how the EU would ensure that while minimum incomes increased, businesses would not raise their prices, making it increasingly difficult for citizens to fight risk of poverty at a time when inflation is high.

“We have a situation of inequality at EU level. We need to put forward a proposal to have a mechanism in place for all 27 member states in accordance to GDP, inflation level at each member state, whereby minimum income would be calculated with a common denominator and equation, so that we do not have inequalities,” he said.

Agius Saliba added that a proposal for a mechanism when it comes to minimum wages is also at dialogue level, having a proposal approved by the EU parliament with rapporteurs appointed from the EPP and the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), to address discrepancies in minimum wages.

“Productivity goes hand in hand with good working conditions and we are in a situation where we should do something at EU level to protect this level of income and higher standard of living at EU level, as we have the tools, means, and opportunities to set the ball rolling,” he said.

Following Parliament’s approval, EU consumers will soon be able to use a single universal charger for all electronic devices, a proposal which Agius Saliba was rapporteur of.

Asked about the next steps, Agius Saliba said that the proposal will be put in the market in a few months, and next year, the common charger will become a reality for 14 different categories of products.

“At the same time, we are having contact with a number of industries and companies, and there were also a number of reports in the past days where Apple was trying to bypass our rules, putting on the market a charger with different characteristics for their products,” he said.

Agius Saliba said that constant communication is being carried out with big companies, and the Commission is to make sure this directive is implemented correctly.

“Our aim is to have a universal charger which produces less electronic waste, give a fairer deal for our consumers and make sure it is implemented correctly by all industries,” Agius Saliba continued.

Agius Saliba spoke about the work being done in the Petitions Committee within the EU parliament, which is a non-legislative committee where no legislation is discussed, but it is the only committee where citizens can move forward petitions on the application of EU law at EU level and at member state level.

He said that the Committee works closely with the EU Ombudsman, in matters such as transparency to the procurement of Covid-19 vaccinations, implementation of conventions signed by the EU on the protection of persons with disabilities, and EU agencies working on issues such as the use of EU funds and the overseeing the following of these rules.

“This is a relevant committee overseeing that EU law is applied correctly everywhere, and it is the only Committee where citizens have this direct interaction with the Commission and members of the EU parliament, and we provide solutions and answers,” Agius Saliba said.

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