Gibraltar loses EU natural habitats appeal

Gibraltar loses EU natural habitats appeal

Panorama can reveal that the Government of Gibraltar before European Courts of Justice has lost its second appeal against an EU ruling that designated Spain an area of BGTW as Site of Community Importance (SCI), known as the “Estrecho Oriental”, under the EU Habitats Directive.

Readers will recall that in 2008, the European Commission adopted a decision containing an updated list of SCI’s for the Mediterranean bio-geographical region under the Habitats Directive. Under this decision, one of the new Spanish sites adopted (the ‘Estrecho Oriental’) overlaps British Gibraltar territorial waters (BGTW), and encompasses an existing UK listed site.

Subsequently the UK Government in 2009/10 and the Government of Gibraltar in 2009 have both appealed the EU decision in the European General Court, a decision in which the Spanish SCI was listed. Although the Court ruled these cases (appeals) inadmissible both the UK and Gibraltar Government appealed again to the European Court of Justice against the Court’s decision in their respective cases.

The decision by the European General Court could not have come a more critical time for Gibraltar. The Rock is presently embroiled in an on going fishing dispute with the Spanish (fishermen) Government will see the courts ruling as serious set back, particularly as the PP Spanish Government since their election win last year, displayed a very aggressive political posture towards Gibraltar. This manifested during the current fishing row when they have consistently ordered their Paramilitary Forces the Guardia Civil into BGTW.

Although it is worth mentioning that the EU decision in 2008 did not list BGTW as being under the control of Spain. Rather, Spain at the time (during the British MEP snooze time) proposed an area, which included BGTW, to the Commission as a ‘Site of Community Importance’ and the decisions listed this site as an SCI.

Gibraltar’s appeal was heard on the 29 July this year, representing the Gibraltar Government was D. Vaughan QC and M. Llamas, Barrister,

The Gibraltar appeal was to seek to set aside the order of the General Court of the European Union of 24 May 2011, as we understand the first appeal that was lost and which the General Court dismissed as inadmissible. The first appeal was directed at also seeking a partial annulment of commission original decision in 2008.

The Government of Gibraltar put forward five grounds of appeal. The first and second grounds allege that the General Court misapplied the rules relating to the partial annulment and the severability of European Union acts. The third, fourth and fifth grounds of appeal, the Government of Gibraltar complained that the General Court distorted the clear sense of the evidence, infringed the rights of the defence and did not provide reasoning.

As we understand the Gibraltar Government wanted the court to ’set aside the order under the appeal’ and also ‘to declare its action (the Gibraltar appeal) admissible and refer the case back to the General Court for a decision on merits.’

Subsequently the Gibraltar appeal was dismissed in its entirety. The Court ordered the Government of Gibraltar shall pay the costs and Spain to bear its own costs.



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Gibraltar loses EU natural habitats appeal

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