Union list on Invasive Alien Species remains high on the agenda
The European Commission (EC) has come under fire for failing to adopt delegated acts, specifying the criteria to include relevant species in the list of Union concern and the methodology to be applied in the risk assessment. Despite that, the Commission already adopted a first list of 37 Invasive Alien Species (IAS) in its Union list in December 2015 and is currently working on a second one, which considers also species of high environmental and socio-economic value such as Acer negundo (Ashleaf maple).

The Regulation 1143/2014 on Invasive Alien Species, which came into force on 1 January 2015, centres around a list of IAS of Union concern. Invasive Alien Species are animals and plants that are introduced accidently or deliberately into a natural environment where they are not normally found, with serious negative consequences for their new environment. The Regulation foresees three types of interventions; prevention, early detection and rapid eradication, and management. A list of invasive alien species of Union concern is being drawn up and managed by the Commission together with Member States using risk assessments and scientific evidence.

The implementation of the Regulation is supported by a Committee made up of representatives of all Member States. Furthermore, advice on scientific questions related to the implementation of the Regulation is provided through a Scientific Forum with representatives of the scientific community appointed by the Member States. A Working Group on Invasive Alien Species (WGIAS) is reconvened and its membership renewed, so as to have an operational group providing concrete input to the implementation of the Regulation, while ensuring fair and representative participation.

According to Article 5(3) of the Regulation, the Commission is empowered to adopt delegated acts to further specify the type of evidence acceptable for the purpose of same criteria for the inclusion of IAS and the risk assessment. Until now, no delegated acts on this issue have been adopted by the Commission. Nevertheless, a first Union list of 37 species, considered alien and invasive, was approved on 4 December 2015. No tree species are included in this first IAS Union list. However, due to the lack of delegated acts, a prerequisite to approve such a list, as well as due to the inconsistencies in the list regarding the common criteria fixed in the Regulation 1143/2015, there are valid reasons for criticism – also from a forest owners’ perspective.

Currently, the Commission is working on a second list of IAS of Union concern. This list includes also tree species, namely Acer negundoAcacia dealbata or Prunus campanulata. They are either considered or are already subject of a risk assessment (please refer to list of risk assessments under consideration or development for further details). The inclusion of these species remains doubtful. Ashleaf maple (Acer negundo), for example, is a wide spread species, which has been introduced already in the 17th century and is being used in forestry. The adverse impact of the species on biodiversity has not been proven sufficiently. Given the fast growing and reproducing rate, the cost for eradication are expected to be excessive.

In this context, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the list of IAS of Union concern (2015/3010 RSP) on 16 December 2015. Under rapporteur MEP Pavel Poc (S&D, CZ), the MEPs highlighted that the Commission ought to carry out appropriate consultations during its preparatory work, including at expert level. Further, it was criticised that the reasons for listing the species on the draft Union list are based on political rather than on scientific criteria, depending on the political will of the Member States.

For further information, please refer to the European Commission webpage.