European Union ban on worst invasive species moves closer as draft legislation gains approval

EU draft legislation seen as a positive move but industry must go along with it, says Neil Huck.

Invasives: causing real problem
Invasives: causing real problem

An EU ban on the worst invasive species is a step closer after MEPs approved draft legislation to go forward to the European Parliament.

The MEPs consulted on the plans with a range of industry groups including the European Landscape Contractors Association (ELCA), of which BALI is a member.

BALI technical director and ELCA vice-president Neil Huck was invited to put forward the views of the British landscapers on behalf of both groups in front of 200 delegates at a workshop before the European Parliament environment committee in December.

Defra and the Food & Environment Research Association representatives also attended, along with the Association of European Botanical Gardens.

Under the draft bill, whose lead "rapporteur" (proposer) is Czech MEP Pavel Poc, member states will be obliged to inform EU authorities where they find invasive species. If passed, the law would ban an agreed list of species "of Union concern" from being introduced, transported, placed on the market, offered, kept, grown or released in the environment.

Huck said the Parliament took the concerns of British landscapers on board. "The one thing I did push was training - the need for people to be properly qualified - and that's going into the new document. There's a lot of people saying they are experts who are not.

He added: "Plants imported into the UK particularly have that risk of being invasive or harbouring an invasive species and we've got to realise that risk as soon as we can."

The "very aggressive" water primrose - sales of which were banned in England from last April - is a good example that is "starting to cause real problems across the UK", said Huck.

"Japanese knotweed is the biggest problem we've got at the moment. The estimate of costs is unbelievable. Some countries in Europe aren't dealing with it."

He added: "I see this as a positive move but the authorities need to make sure that the industry goes along with it. I think that's going to happen. I strongly believe that we need to engage with Europe on this so that it doesn't get foisted on us."

European view

"The rules will require member states to carry out an analysis of the pathways of introduction and spread of invasive alien species (IASs) and set up surveillance and action plans. Official controls at EU borders will also be stepped up. For IASs that have spread widely, EU countries will have to draw up management plans. The proposal will change during negotiations but our red line is to ensure the feasibility of the final proposal and transparency throughout the process. Citizens and experts must have their say when species are defined and member states must have the possibility to adapt the legislation for bio-geographical conditions."

Pavel Poc, Czech MEP

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