Dáil Éireann - Volume 540 - 04 July, 2001

Written Answers. - EU Directives.

221. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands if her attention has been drawn to the fact that when she replied on 29 May 2001 to a parliamentary question by Deputy Moynihan-Cronin, the opinion of the Advocate General on the case against Ireland for failure to supply an adequate list of candidate special areas of conservation had been published since 3 May 2001; and if she will make a statement on the contents of this opinion. [20249/01]

222. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands if, since her attention has been drawn to the opinion of the Advocate General of 3 May 2001 against Ireland, she will outline her views on the fact that this opinion further supports the decision in First Corporate Shipping that a member state must provide an exhaustive list containing all sites which host the habitats and species listed in annexes I and II of the Habitats Directive, the final selection to be made with the Commission; if she would make a statement on the Advocate General's opinion. [20250/01]

Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (Miss de Valera): I propose to take Questions Nos. 221 and 222 together.

My Department still has not been formally advised of the Advocate General's opinion in this case although I am advised the opinion has been published. I await the advice of the Chief State Solicitor's Office in the matter. However, it is important to note that these proceedings and the Advocate General's opinion reflect the position at the time of the issue of the proceedings against Ireland and that matters have changed significantly in the interim.

My Department has now completed the transmission to the EU Commission in accordance with Article 4(1) of the Habitats Directive its proposals for SAC designations in respect of 362 [685] sites. These proposals will be assessed at the Atlantic region bio-geographical seminar scheduled for September 2001. This seminar will be asked to assess our proposals for SACs in the light of currently available scientific information. Having regard to the number and extent of candidate SACs that I have now proposed, I anticipate that Ireland's proposals will be found sufficient for most habitats and species. If deficiencies are identified for a small number of habitats or species, further decisions will be taken in the light of the conclusions of the seminar.

The decision in the First Corporate Shipping case is that a member state may not take account of economic, social and cultural requirements or regional and local characteristics, as mentioned in Article 2(3) of the directive, when selecting and defining the boundaries of the sites to be proposed to the Commission as eligible for identification as sites of Community importance.