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Lack of transparency and accountability

Another cause for concern is the lack of transparency in the EU decision-making process to develop a common position on CITES proposals and working documents (including in expert group, Working Party on the Environment (WPE) and on International Environment Issues (WPIEI) meetings). The positions taken by individual Member States are not made publicly available, preventing public scrutiny and accountability. In addition, the final Council Decision for a common position, which is

adopted before CITES meetings, is also not made publicly available in advance, but only after these meetings have ended. Once again, this evades transparency and prevents broader scrutiny, not only by MEPs, EU citizens and civil society organisations, but also by the CITES Parties submitting proposals and other documents.

Inconsistencies and a lack of transparency in the EU approach are highlighted in a press statement released by the Czech EU Presidency on 16th November 2022 entitled “Let’s save elephants and 600 other endangered species”, which implied that the EU intended to support species proposals, which it actually opposed during the CoP19 meeting. The press release stated: “Another priority for the EU is to strengthen the protection of species with markets in the European Union. These include proposals to include dozens of amphibian and reptile species in CITES”.

In addition, we understand that informal EU-internal working groups have been established for certain species groups and technical issues, in order to inform EU positions. These are chaired by representatives from Member States, rather than the Commission and membership consists only of a limited number of Member States.

This not only raises questions with regard to transparency and accountability, as details of the modus operandi and membership of Working Groups are not made available to the public, but also whether the positions arrived at adequately represent input from and the views of all Member States. Discussions with some Member States suggest that there is also some discontent among them with regard to the EU coordination process and the lack of ambition in the common EU position, as reflected in a statement by five Member States on the proposal to list glass frogs.

In conclusion, we respectfully call on the Commission to jointly reflect with Member States on the appropriateness of EU processes, decisions and actions leading up to and during CITES CoP19 and any lessons learned, with a view to ensuring the EU:

  • Adopts a highly precautionary approach to international trade in wild species that are or may be affected by such trade and that it complies with the letter and spirit of the Convention’s listing criteria when determining positions on proposals;
  •  Gives appropriate and respectful consideration, and full cooperation, to range States and other Parties seeking to list species on the CITES Appendices that are or may be adversely affected by trade;
  • Guarantees effective dialogue with other Parties and civil society stakeholders in the lead-up to and at future CITES meetings; and
  • Puts in place mechanisms to improve transparency and accountability around CITES decision- making.We thank you for your attention and would be happy to discuss the issues outlined above in greater detail with the Commission and Member States.

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