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We are alarmed that the EU, as a major importer of many of these species, did not assume the responsibility to protect them from over-exploitation, but instead attempted to block some proposals by range States that were seeking international assistance to safeguard their own Biodiversity and native species. As a result, several range States, Members of the European Parliament and civil groups have raised concerns.

Furthermore, in addition to undermining conservation efforts at CITES CoP19, we also fear that the EU isolated itself and damaged its own reputation.

Failure to adopt a Precautionary Approach

The Precautionary Principle is not only enshrined in Article 191 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, but also in CITES resolutions. However, this approach was notably absent in many of the positions taken by the EU during CITES CoP19. Indeed, we fear that the EU’s restrictive interpretation of the criteria for listing species in the CITES Appendices, and its requests for additional requirements, served to undermine the Convention and the Precautionary Principle.

In its attempts to justify its opposition to the listing proposals submitted by many range States, the EU argued that trade should be the major or a “significant” threat, or that not enough data were available to demonstrate that a species is threatened by international trade. This approach is neither precautionary, nor is it in line with the text of the Convention which explicitly states in Article II on Fundamental Principles (emphasis added):

1. Appendix I shall include all species threatened with extinction which are or may be affected by trade. …

2. Appendix II shall include: (a) all species which although not necessarily now threatened with extinction may become so unless trade in specimens of such species is subject to strict regulation in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival; …..

In addition, the CITES listing criteria in Resolution Conf. 9.24 (Rev. CoP17) clearly state:

by virtue of the precautionary approach and in case of uncertainty regarding the status of a species or the impact of trade on the conservation of a species, the Parties shall act in the best interest of conservation.”

In this context it is worth noting that in its Resolution of 5th October 2022 the European Parliament adopted far more ambitious and precautionary positions with respect to CITES proposals, which the Member States also chose to largely ignore.

Inconsistency of EU positions

It is also concerning that the EU seems to be applying divergent approaches to different taxa. For example, the EU was a co-proponent for several proposals for the listing of marine and plant species at the genus or even family level – for which we congratulate the EU and which is an approach fully

justified from a conservation perspective. Yet, the EU inconsistently opposed proposals from other CITES Parties seeking to list higher taxa of reptiles and amphibians, which are threatened by the international, commercial pet trade.

Moreover, while the EU supported trade in live white rhinoceroses from Namibia on the condition

that it is limited to in situ conservation programmes in the species’ natural range, it opposed the

adoption of very similar language proposed for inclusion in Resolution Conf. 10.10 (Rev. CoP18)

regarding the trade in all live African elephants. This is even more alarming given that the CITES

Parties had already agreed to language to this effect in Resolution Conf. 11.20 (Rev. CoP18) and the

EU effectively backtracked on its own position which was clearly stated at the previous CITES CoP in

4 2019 .

Lack of dialogue and cooperation with range States

We understand that the EU’s confrontational behaviour at CoP19 in relation to a number of proposals resulted in a great deal of frustration among Parties from other regions. This ultimately culminated in many African countries speaking out and voting against an EU proposal to protect the Chinese Water Dragon, a proposal they would normally have been expected to support, given that it was not particularly controversial.

Equally alarming is that during a number of debates at CoP19, the EU introduced amendments that served to significantly weaken proposals and were not supported by the original proponents thereof.

In the case of proposals to list glass frogs and many reptile species, the EU insisted until the last minute that it would oppose unless these proposals were significantly reduced in scope. Despite EU opposition, all but one of these proposals (which was withdrawn) were ultimately adopted thanks to overwhelming support from other CITES Parties. With respect to the US proposal to list snapping turtles in the CITES Appendices, the EU forced a vote in an attempt to prevent their listing. Fortunately, this proposal was adopted because the EU was outvoted by the other Parties.

In the case of the proposal by ten range States for a zero export quota for common hippo specimens, the EU’s proposal that this should instead apply only to the proponent countries and not all range States made absolutely no sense given that the purpose was to close the opportunity for traffickers to sell specimens, such as ivory from poached hippos, on legal markets. The rejection of this common-sense proposal risks the perpetuation of hippo poaching and the laundering of illegally acquired hippo ivory into legal trade.

We also understand that in preparation for CoP19 the EU had demanded that other proponent Parties provide trade data that can only reasonably be collected as a consequence of actually listing species on CITES Appendix II, thus creating additional hurdles. Furthermore, we were informed by other Parties that despite repeated attempts to engage with the Commission and Member States on their proposals long before the CoP, the EU had not informed Parties of its final position until the official debate began at CoP19. For example, the African range State proponents of the proposal to list hippos in Appendix I received a written response from the Commission only the day before the CoP ended, and after the EU had already twice opposed their proposal.