Bijdrage namens de mili­eu­com­missie tijdens de openbare hoor­zitting “Reva­lu­ation of the wolf popu­lation in the EU”

5 december 2019

Anja Hazekamp (PvdD): Good morning everyone. I am very pleased to welcome you all on behalf of the ENVI committee to today’s joint public hearing on the “Revaluation of the wolf population in the EU”. In particular, I would like to welcome the two petitioners and the six experts who are here with us today for this important hearing. I would also like to thank the PETI committee and the AGRI committee for the fruitful collaboration that led to this event.

Please note that an interpretation service is available. I would like to kindly ask the speakers who will take the floor to not speak too fast. This in order to allow the interpreters to provide their service in the best conditions possible. Members who wish to raise a question, are invited to raise their hand during the presentations.

As we all know, worldwide biodiversity loss is one of the main global concerns we are facing today. As pointed out by the latest April report of the IPBES (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services): “Nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history”.

At European level, the objective of halting the biodiversity decline by 2020 will not be reached. And at international level, the next Conference of the Party of the Convention on Biodiversity, to be held in China next October, will be one of the last chances to reverse the dramatic decline of our species and habitats. Europe must take the lead on this process and make sure that the recovery and protection of nature are supported worldwide.

Large carnivores like the wolf, are also part of our vulnerable nature. Centuries ago, the wolf disappeared from large parts of Europe, due to human persecution and habitat loss. But the wolf has slowly started to return to regions where it has been driven away in the past.

The return of the wolf in Europe is one of the greatest successes of legal nature protection, in particular the Habitats Directive.

I am heartened that the European Commission has remained firm with regard to the issue of reviewing the Habitats Directive and that former Commissioner Vella gave a very strong statement on the protection of wolves earlier this year. He said: "we should not be (solely) concerned with the impact of wolves on farm animals, but rather with the impact of agriculture on all other species protected by the Habitat Directive". And I’m very happy that Commissioner Sinkevicius told in his hearing that he is not very eager to change this line.

All of the species that are protected by EU legislation, are protected for a very good reason. And rather than looking to manage large carnivores through the barrel of a hunting rifle, we should instead be looking at ways in which we can co-exist with them ánd protect farm animals at the same time.

Many preventive methods have already been developed to make co-existence with large carnivores possible. But it remains of high importance that we support further research in order to research the co-existence in harmony with our nature and with other species. I hope that in the future we will also look into more innovative measures, such as sheep collars for instance, that have been developed by the Dutch Institute for co-existence with wildlife in The Netherlands together with the University of Ljubljana. I wish for innovative methods that move beyond fences and guard dogs. I wish for true co-existence with wildlife.

Today, the three panels during this hearing will allow us to consider the main elements of this search for harmony.

The first panel will set the scene in terms of knowledge of European wolf populations. Not simply in numbers, but also in how to assess the vitality of wolf populations, their role in our ecosystem and the social and cultural impact.

The second and third panel will be chaired by my colleagues, the chairs of the PETI and AGRI committees, and will focus on the legal framework and the impact of the return of the wolf on the environment and rural communities.

Over the years, our three committees have been closely following the return of large carnivores in Europe. Each committee has requested a study on this issue, and the three studies have also been inserted in the meeting documents of today.

This public hearing is an important occasion to have a comprehensive understanding of the ways in which we can co-exist with large carnivores like the wolf.

For me personally, it has been very exciting to see the first wolves cross the border to The Netherlands after an absence of over a hundred years.

In my opinion we should be welcoming the return of these magnificent animals, and at the same time provide citizens, farmers and policy makers with the necessary tools and knowledge needed to peacefully co-exist with these animals.

I will now hand over to my colleague Tatiano, in order to welcome you on behalf of the PETI committee and to introduce the two petitioners.

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