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Photo:Seppo Keränen

To the Commission of the European Communities

Ref: Proposal to the Natura 2000 network of the European Community

The Council of the European Union decided on 21 May 1992 that Member States are to establish a coherent European ecological network of Special Areas for Conservation, Natura 2000.

The network consists of areas where there are natural habitats and wild fauna and flora (SCI areas) enlisted in the Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) as well as of special protection areas for birds (SPA areas) in compliance with the provisions of the Birds Directive (79/409/EEC).

On the basis of these directives, we propose that the Kemihaara mires be included in the Natura 2000 network.

The Kemihaara mires are a vast bog and river area, a valuable natural entity in Finland and one of the few in Europe and the world.

The area meets the SPA criteria and is included in the Finnish proposal for Important Bird Areas 1997.

Of the species given in the Annex I of the Birds Directive, 21 are breeders in the area, while 8 species are migratory or visit the area regularly to find food. In 1994, 10 endangered species in the Finnish Red Book were observed in the area.

As to avifauna, the area meets explicitly and diversely the criteria of Natura 2000:

- it is the most representative as regards the indicator bird species of Boreal zone in Finland

- largest amounts (in Finland) of species favouring mires, that are considered important to protect in the EU/in Finland, are breeding in the area

- the area is one of the best breeding areas for waders in Finland

- the area is well representative as to forests with a rich bird fauna.

A judgement of the European Court of Justice (19 May 1998) to the Kingdom of the Netherlands explains its decision as follows:

"[62. Consequently,] the Member States are obliged to classify as SPAs all the sites which, applying ornithological criteria, appear to be the most suitable for conservation of the species in question".

As a breeding area of the birds in the Annex I of the Bird Directive, and mentioned below, the Kemihaara mires are, applying ornithological criteria (IBA Finland), either the best, the second best or one of the best in Finland:

- there are more breeding Cranes (Grus grus) than in any sufficiently studied area in Finland

Photo: Seppo Keränen

- there are more breeding Smews (Mergus albellus) than in any other area in Finland

- it is the second most important breeding area of Hen Harriers (Circus cyaneus)

- it is one of the most important breeding areas of the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), classified as an endangered species in Finland.

Photo: Seppo Keränen

The Kemihaara mires also meet the SCI criteria:

There are 12 natural habitat types of the Annex I of the Habitats Directive as well as three plant species mentioned in the Annex II of the Habitats Directive in the area. Also, several (13) nationally threatened plant and fungus species as well as five animal species have been observed.

The Kemihaara mires (10 000 hectares) belong to the Vuotos area for which plans of energy production have been made since the end of 1940's.

The area is threatened by the power company Kemijoki Oy's plans to build a power plant and a reservoir. The maximum regulation level (appr.8 m) of the reservoir would inundate 240 km2 of bog area (for instance, the Kemihaara mires), as well as eskers and rivers. With the reservoir built, the Kemihaara mires will be destroyed. It is estimated, for instance, that 45000 breeding bird pairs will disappear while some 4500 pairs will settle on the islands and 3500 on the shores of the reservoir.

In the decision of theEuropean Court of Justice made on 19 May 1998 (Case C-3/96) it is established that:

"[59. Second, it must be pointed out that] the economic requirements mentioned in Article 2 of the Directive may not be taken into account when selecting a SPA and defining its boundaries."

According to Community Law, the above mentioned decision strongly supports our proposal that the Kemihaara mires be included in the Natura 2000 network of the EU.

The area was in the original proposal for Natura 2000 published by the Ministry of the Environment on 7 April 1997 and 14 April 1999.

Annexes and the main documents for the Commission's treatment of the area of Kemihaara mires:

1. Formal Complaint by MEP Heidi Hautala 95/5000

2. The Ministry of the Environment's response on 26 June 1996 to the inquiry of the Commission due to the complaint

3. MEP Heidi Hautala's explanatory notes on 12 December 1997 (see also the annexes)

4. The reasoned opinion of the Commission on 2 December 1998 (response to the Commission, 98/2208 (K(1998) 3808, 17.12.1998)

Support from other EU and Coalition Clean Baltic-countries:

Referring to MEP Heidi Hautala's complaint and its reasoning, we ask the Commission to supervise that Finland's proposal for a Natura 2000 network is not compromising the establishment of an entity of coherent SPAs within the EU. All EU member states will have to take responsibility as to the protection of our common nature and, in this case, articularly of breeding and migratory birds.

We feel that Finland's proposal does not meet the given criteria unless the Kemihaara mires be added to it. Consequently, we strongly support the proposal for including the Kemihaara mires to the Natura 2000 network.

Gunnar Noren
CCB co-ordinator
Coalition Clean Baltic (CCB), a network of 24 environmental NGOs in 9
coutries bordering the Baltic Sea

Per Stenbeck
Greenpeace Nordic

Ola Jennersten
WWF Sweden

Klas Hjelm
Svenska Naturskyddsföreningen

Bo Leth-Espensen
International Project co-ordinator
The Danish Society for the Conservation of Nature

Hans-Christian Mittag
Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU)

Francisco Cardoso Ferreira
Quercus - Associacao Nacional de Conservacao de Natureza, Portugal

From Finland more
valoisa2The latest situation June/2000
The complaint of Heidi Hautala