Brussels threatens sanctions against Spain for mismanagement of Doñana

by Lorraine Williamson
Spain risks sanctions

MADRID – Spain can count on sanctions from Europe if the administration of the Andalucia region (PP and Vox) goes ahead with the proposal to expand irrigation in the area of the Doñana National Park. 

In the eyes of the European Commission, the regional government is thus committing a “flagrant violation” of the ruling of the European Court of Justice. It requires the protection of this nature reserve because of its inestimable ecological value. Millions of migratory birds winter and breed in the area every year. 

Letter from EC to the Spanish government 

European Commission Director-General for the Environment, Florika Fink-Hooijer, has sent a letter to the Spanish government. This includes the request to clarify within a maximum of one month how they have ensured that the irrigation improvement plan in the Corona Norte de Doñana will not have adverse effects in the protected areas of the park. 

In the letter, Fink-Hooijer points out that as early as January 2022, the EC’s “concern and surprise” were conveyed about the risk of a similar proposal going against the Court of Justice’s ruling and still not being complied with. 

Need more control 

Florika Fink-Hooijer defends measures such as more control and inspection that ensure the closure of all illegal wells that continue to exist in the vicinity of the park. She even proposes financing projects for digitization and measuring water withdrawals in Doñana through the Recovery and Resilience mechanism. 

“Flagrant Violation” 

“If the treatment of this proposal proceeds as smoothly as the regional government has announced, it would constitute a flagrant violation of the provisions of the judgment of the Court of Justice,” the letter read. It also refers to the new bill submitted to the Parliament of Andalucia on March 3, which provides for the expansion of irrigation in the vicinity of the national park. 

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New appeal to the Court of Justice of the EU 

The letter warns against “taking all necessary measures, including bringing a new appeal to the Court of Justice”. In this appeal, she would ask for a fine to be imposed for repeated non-compliance. Execution is also called for to protect the natural values of Doñana. 

The adoption of the Partido Popular bill of March 3 would significantly worsen the “situation of the water bodies and the protected areas of Doñana”. The EU states that the continued overexploitation of the aquifer “seriously threatens” the viability of economic activity in the region, especially irrigated crops. 

Doñana National Park 

Doñana National Park is located in southwestern Spain and is one of the most important wetland reserves in Europe. It is located at the mouth of Guadalquivir and encompasses a wide variety of habitats, including sand dunes, swamps, lagoons, and forests. 

Doñana is incredibly important ecologically as it is an important stopover for millions of migratory birds between Europe and Africa. It also provides a crucial nesting area for several endangered species, including the Iberian lynx and Spanish imperial eagle. The wetlands in Doñana act as a natural filter, improving water quality and regulating water flow in the Guadalquivir River. 

Unfortunately, Doñana faces many threats, including habitat loss, overuse of groundwater, and pollution from nearby agriculture. 

Related post: Situation in southern Spanish nature park Doñana is dramatic according to SEO Birdlife 

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