Thodoris Chondrogiannos
Greece breaches EU law on Caretta caretta sea turtles
18 • 11 • 2016

In November 2016, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) found that Greece breached its EU obligations to protect Caretta caretta sea turtles in the Gulf of Kyparissia.

On 10 November 2016, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) found that Greece, in breach of EU law, did not take the necessary measures to protect Caretta caretta sea turtles in the bay of Kyparissia in the Peloponnese (full text of the decision here).

Caretta caretta (loggerhead) sea turtles enjoy increased protection under EU law. These turtles only give birth every two or three years, between May and August. During the breeding season they emerge from the sea at night and dig a hole 40 to 60 cm deep higher up on the beach, where each turtle lays an average of 120 eggs. Two months later, the eggs hatch and the baby turtles emerge from the sand, headed for the sea. The hatchlings are vulnerable, however, and many of them die.

The CJEU found that Greece had allowed development projects such as new housing and road construction to go ahead, and had failed to regulate human presence on beaches used for breeding by the turtles, such as free campers and the operation of beach bars.

The CJEU thus came to the conclusion that there was no complete and coherent protective legislative framework in place in Kyparissia before the Commission’s appeal to the Court. The court added that the fact that developers had admitted that Caretta caretta turtles might be affected, demonstrates that there was intentional disruption, prohibited by Union law.

Where is the problem with the rule of law?

As an EU member state, Greece must comply with EU law.

However, in this case the country failed to uphold its obligations under Council Directive 92/43/EEC for the protection of Caretta caretta sea turtles, in the wider context of the need to protect natural habitats and preserve wild flora and fauna.

Thodoris Chondrogiannos
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