French in court for bird hunting

THE EUROPEAN Commission decided yesterday to take France to the European Court for failing to protect migratory birds. It is prosecuting France on two counts of breaching a 1979 directive imposing Europe-wide restrictions on the hunting of birds which migrate across national boundaries.

It follows a decision by the French parliament to allow hunters to shoot duck, geese, woodcock and snipe for an extra six weeks in summer and an extra month in spring. The law, not yet implemented, would allow French hunters to continue to shoot the protected birds during their autumn and spring migrations.

Paris was already in trouble for failing to implement the directive properly. It was condemned by the European Court of Justice in 1994.

On the second count, Paris is accused of failing to implement laws banning the shooting of four kinds of seabird regarded as endangered. EU countries can seek an exemption if the birds - three kinds of gull and one type of cormorant - can be proved to be a nuisance but France did not go through these procedures. If the French government is found guilty, it faces fines of up to pounds 10,000 a day on each charge.

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