May 11, 2004 (ENS): Birds in the expanded European
Union of 25 countries may experience serious problems
in the new member states that joined the bloc on May 1.
The danger to wildlife and rural landscapes is EU agricultural
policy, the bird conservation group BirdLife International
The new member states - Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia,
Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and
Slovenia - will bring to the EU flowery meadows, diverse
farmland habitats and a wealth of plants and animals.
Many farmland bird species that are now uncommon in much
of western Europe are still widespread in most of the
new Eastern European member states. The eight mainland
accession countries will bring more than 76,000 pairs
of white storks Ciconia ciconia to the EU. Currently,
there are just 5,700 pairs in northwest Europe.
But intensive agriculture has already decimated farmland
birds in the first 15 EU countries, and no real strategy
is in place in the new member states to prevent wildlife
from being swept away by the implementation of the Common
Agricultural Policy (CAP) says.
"We urgently need to avoid the same mistakes in the
new member states," said Giovanna Pisano, Agriculture
Task Force coordinator with BirdLife.
Hungary and Poland are home to several birds threatened
with global extinction, including the great bustard Otis
tarda, the Corncrake Crex crex; and the Aquatic Warbler
"Supporting and training farmers to understand wildlife
needs will be a crucial step," said Clairie Papazoglou,
who heads BirdLife's European Community Office.
BirdLife is now lobbying for more Common Agricultural
Policy funds to be allocated to protecting and creating
wildlife rich areas in the new member states.