Dutch farmland birds, government fails

This video is about black-tailed godwits. Azerbaijan. Ag-Gel National Park. July 14, 2014.

From BirdLife:

Justice for Dutch farmland birds

By Wouter Langhout, BirdLife ECA, 8 Nov 2016

Today, VBN (BirdLife in the Netherlands) filed a formal complaint to the European Commission against the Dutch government for persistent breaches of the EU Birds Directive in The Netherlands. Wouter Langhout – BirdLife ECA’s EU Nature Policy Officer – explains how these infringements put the fate of farmland birds on the line.

When people think of the Dutch countryside, their mind’s eye often springs to the rural idyll immortalized by the brushstrokes of the old masters. However, the horizon looks bleak for farmland birds in the Netherlands today. The [Black-tailed] Godwit, once a common sight in Dutch meadows, has seen its numbers plummet from 100,000 pairs in 1980 to 30,000 pairs today.[1] Experts predict that, if the current trend continues, this number will drop down to a mere 1,500 pairs. This decline is put in stark relief by the fact that the Netherlands is home to more than half of the Godwit’s entire EU breeding population. Indeed, it is largely due to the decline in its Dutch populations that it was last year listed on the IUCN’s Global Red List of threatened bird species. And unfortunately, the Godwit is not alone in its plight; populations of other iconic Dutch farmland birds, such as the Skylark and the Oystercatcher are also in freefall.

While the Dutch government has taken some measures to address this troublesome trend, they have been nowhere near sufficient. The government’s recently published ‘action plan’ (Plan van Aanpak Weidevogels’)[2] is very weak: it has no clear objectives and, more tellingly, has no funding to secure actual implementation. In addition, while the new Dutch Nature Conservation Act allows for national, legally binding programmes to promote active species protection, the government has refused to develop any such programme for farmland birds.

All this comes after literally years of warnings from scientists, NGOs and farmers alike. Yet the Dutch government doesn’t seem to hear the alarm bells. And so today, BirdLife’s partner in The Netherlands Vogelbescherming Nederland (VBN) filed a formal complaint with the European Commission against the Dutch government for its persistent breaches of the EU Birds Directive.

The EU Birds Directive requires EU Member States to safeguard populations of farmland birds, in particular, by taking measures to conserve or restore habitats and by designating protected areas. Ultimately, Member States that fail to implement EU legislation can end up before the Court of Justice of the European Union, which can impose fines on Member States for breach of these laws. Rather than wasting time and taxpayers’ money on lengthy legal procedures, VBN hopes that the Dutch government will see this formal complaint as a wake-up call that will spur it into action to save the Godwit and other farmland birds.

Unfortunately, the Netherlands is not the only country that has neglected farmland birds. NABU (BirdLife in Germany) and DOPPS (BirdLife in Slovenia) both filed similar complaints in 2013, and BSPB (BirdLife in Bulgaria) filed a complaint in 2012 regarding the large scale destruction of grasslands and farmland habitats in the country. The EU spends 40% of its budget on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP; however, the report on the State of Nature in the EU by the European Environment Agency showed that farmland biodiversity across the board is in deep trouble – and agriculture is the main culprit[3]. Clearly, the EU’s agricultural policy fails to put the necessary money into biodiversity conservation; but worse than that, it has also been fuelling the ever increasing intensification that will turn our living landscapes into empty mass-production fields.

Public money should go to public goods. Godwits, Skylarks and other farmland birds are public goods, as their intriguing songs and elegant displays are free for all to enjoy. Unless we fix the broken CAP we are at risk of losing them forever from our fields.

Wouter Langhout is EU Nature Policy Officer for BirdLife Europe & Central Asia

‘European Union pressure causes torture of refugees in Italy’

This Ugandan TV video says about itself:


2 July 2016

Amnesty International, the UK-based human rights organisation, has documented horror stories of migrants and refugees who faced killings, torture, rape and starvation – mostly at the hands of traffickers in Libya.

The report, released on Friday, was based on interviews with more than 90 refugees and migrants at reception centres in the Italian cities of Puglia and Sicily who had made the journey across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya over the past few months.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Amnesty: EU pressure on Italy leads to ill-treatment of refugees

Today, 00:01

The European Union pressure on Italy in the reception of refugees leads to human rights violations. That said Amnesty in a report. The organization speaks of beatings, intimidation and imprisonment.

Europe began in 2015 with the ‘hotspot’ approach. Refugees had to be identified at different locations (hotspots) in the EU. Their fingerprints had to be recorded. In the hotspots it should be decided quickly whether the refugees may remain or will be returned to their countries of origin. Because in some countries, such as Italy, there are many refugees, the applicants had to be distributed according to an EU plan to the other European countries.

Little of this plan has materialized. Last year, according to Amnesty, 150,000 people came to Italy. 1200 of them have moved to other EU countries. That should have been 40,000. “The hotspot approach has just stepped up the pressure on countries on the EU’s borders rather than lessened it,” said Amnesty. “This leads to violations of the rights of these people.” Earlier, it turned out that there are too few hotspots in Italy. Of the six ones planned, only four are open.

Many asylum seekers arriving via Italy in Europe, according to human rights organizations do not want their fingerprints taken. If they are registered, then they can be returned under the Dublin Convention, for example from the Netherlands to Italy.

People who do not want to give fingerprints are treated properly by most police, according to Amnesty. “But sometimes arbitrary detention, harassment and excessive violence is used.”

Amnesty has spoken to people who were beaten, given electric shocks or were humiliated sexually. The organization collected 24 testimonies, they were beaten in sixteen cases.

“They held my shoulders and legs firmly, squeezed my testicles with tweezers and pulled twice. It was indescribably painful”, said a man who was forced by police to remove his clothes

A 25-year-old Eritrean woman said a police officer hit her multiple times in her face, until she gave her fingerprints.

According to Amnesty, Italy under pressure from the EU also looked for ways to send more migrants back. “This has resulted in agreements with countries that commit terrible crimes,” Amnesty noted. “Eg, forty Sudanese were put by Italy on a plane back to that country. They do that while the risk per individual of human rights violations has not been studied well.”