The EC approved the controversial Slovak law allowing the killing of bears

Bear, illustrative photo/Photo: Uhlíř Patrik / ČTK / Profimedia

The European Commission has agreed to approve Slovakia's controversial law allowing the killing of bears, in exchange for Bratislava's support for the Nature Restoration Act, which was passed by a narrow majority on Monday, it said.Politico", referring to the claim of Slovak Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Environment Tomas Taraba.

– We have made it very clear that we cannot support (the Nature Restoration Act) unless we get approval for our new bear legislation. And that happened, said Taraba.

The European Commission denied Taraba's claim, but his Cabinet provided "Politico" with a memo in which European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginius Sinkevičius, according to the Slovak minister, gives temporary support to the Slovak Law authorizing the killing of bears near villages and towns, but also asks him to vote for the adoption of the EU Nature Restoration Law.

– As agreed during Thursday's meeting, our experts have now reviewed as thoroughly as possible the new Slovak Law on Amendments to the Law on Civil Protection and the Law on Nature, and I am happy to share with you that they have concluded that the new law , appears to be largely compliant with the EU Habitats Directive. But there are some provisions for which compliance with EU law will greatly depend on how they are applied. I trust that my answer gives you the necessary reassurance and that the discussions you had with my team last week also clarified your last outstanding questions related to the Nature Restoration Act and reassured you in that regard as well. I count on your support and look forward to seeing you in Luxembourg at the Environment Council, the note states.

Sinkevičius insists that there is no trade involved. – It is a very strange rumor. There were no discussions or negotiations: bears on the Nature Restoration Act. There was no trade or anything like that, Sinkevičius said, adding that the EC did not make any concessions to get Slovakia's support for the Nature Restoration Act.

But according to Taraba, Sinkevičius' memo is "the signal they were looking for" to vote for the Nature Restoration Act.

Taraba, who is a minister proposed by the ultra-nationalist and right-wing populist Slovak National Party (SNS), previously announced that he planned to oppose the adoption of the Nature Restoration Act, but on Monday he reversed his position, speaking before the Environment Council of the EU that Slovakia has already fulfilled the objectives of this legal solution.

In the last three years, several cases of bear attacks on people were registered in Slovakia, which gave this problem a political dimension. After a heated debate in the public, the Slovak Parliament at the beginning of this month adopted the Law which enables the Government to issue emergency permits for killing bears that come close to populated areas.

Environmental protection organizations have condemned the law, saying it violates strict EU rules on the circumstances and conditions under which protected animal species, such as bears, can be killed.

The lawyer of the "ClientEarth" organization, Ioannis Agapakis, assessed that the published note is "worrying" and that the findings indicated in it "are suspicious".

- EU laws offer a lot of flexibility to address concerns about people's safety, but shooting is an absolute last resort among strict criteria. Such reactionary measures are ineffective in overcoming wildlife problems and are in conflict with international and EU nature laws. This move will only lead to further violations of the law, and will not prevent tragic events, said Agapakis.

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