The European Commission has referred Ireland to the EU Court of Justice over what it calls the country’s failure to designate special areas of conservation (SACs), more than five years since the deadline to do so expired.

Under the EU’s Habitats Directive, member states are supposed to designate SACs with specific conservation objectives and measures.

In the case of Ireland, 154 sites that were included in a list of 423 sites here – that were due to be designated as SACs – have not yet been designated. The deadline for these designations expired in 2014.

Site-specific conservation objectives have not been established for 87 sites, and conservation measures have not been carried out at any of the 423 listed sites.

The commission said that authorities in Ireland “did not sufficiently address these concerns following a reasoned opinion”, which has provoked the decision to refer the country to the Court of Justice.

Peat extraction

Separately, the commission is also calling on Ireland to carry out an environmental impact assessment for peat extraction.

The commission said that an assessment of this type comes under EU rules on environmental impact assessments. Under these rules, member states are required to carry out an assessment of the environmental impacts of “projects likely to have a significant negative impact on the environment”.

The commission claimed that Ireland has had “numerous problems” with these rules over the years.

The directive on environmental impact assessments was applied in 1988. Because peat extraction has continued in Ireland since, the commission issued a letter of formal notice.

Ireland now has three months to comply with the directive, before the commission decides to also refer this case to the Court of Justice as well.