Complaint to the European Commission on the Project of High-Speed Train in Navarra for breaching European Law

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Jordi Sebastiá on Twitter when complaint was deliveredThe MEP Jordi Sebastià (Greens/ European Free Alliance, Primavera Europea coalition in Spain) on 18 June at the Directorate General for Environment (DG ENV) of the European Commission in Brussels a complaint against the Government of Spain and the Government of Navarra, for deliberately and repeatedly breaching numerous European Directives with the Project of High-Speed ​​Train (or Tren de Alta Velocidad, TAV in Spanish) in Navarra. This is a bold claim, developed in more than 160 pages and elaborated by the Foundation Sustrai Erakuntza (of Navarra), in a comprehensive way, both legally and technically. Continue reading... The same press release in Spanish and Basque. Info7 Irratia interview (spanish):

The complaint has the support of a wide scope of groups in Navarra (Ecologists in Action Pamplona, ​​Navarra EQUO and SEO/BirdLife Navarra) and Brussels (Counter Balance/Bankwatch). The complaint details with legal evidence and sentences how the TAV project in Navarra and its works in progress fail (or have failed) to comply with the following European and international regulations, especially since the start of its construction in 2011:

1) Lack of information and involvement of civil society and the public:

Navarra's government has banned public access to environmental information on the TAV project in Navarra from 2008 to 2014, in violation of the Aarhus Convention on rights of access to environmental information and the Article 3 of the Directive 2003/4/EC on public access to environmental information. Actually, it was recognized by:

2)  Invalid Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs):

When the Government of Navarra began the construction of the TAV in 2011, its EIAs that were approved in 2004 had already expired since 2009. This fact was confirmed by the High Court of Madrid (TSJM) in a judgment of June 2013 declaring expired and null those EIAs. In addition, despite without EIAs to date and in force, the construction of the TAV still continues as of today between Castejón and Cadreita, and land expropriations are on-going in new sections (Villafranca-Olite-Tafalla). According to the complainant, these actions constitute infringements of the Government of Spain and the Government of Navarra to the Articles 2, 3, 6, 8 and 9 of EIA Directive 85/337/EEC.

3) Damages to protected species and natural spaces:

The proposed route of the TAV and its construction directly affect several protected areas, including Sites of Community Importance (SCI) as the Ebro River and the Laguna del Juncal, which are covered by the Directive 92/43/EEC (Habitats) on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora. They are important habitats for nesting and migrating birds, birds of wetlands and steppe birds protected by the Directive on the Conservation of wild birds (2009/147/ EC). By ignoring these protected areas and protected species, including the European mink, the TAV project in Navarra breaches the Article 3 of the Wild Birds Directive and the Article 12 of the Habitats Directive.

The MEP Jordi Sebastià stressed that "the complaint of the Foundation Sustrai to the European Commission demonstrates and details with solid legal arguments how the TAV project in Navarra breaches the requirements of at least five European directives and an international agreement (Aarhus)".

Before the meeting with Marie-Claude Blin, Deputy Head of Department in DG ENV, Jordi Sebastià presented on January 26, 2015 to the European Commission (EC) a parliamentary question "On the TAV in Navarra", in particular on the absence of valid EIAs for its construction. In its response, the EC admitted to ignore this situation, so the Foundation Sustrai has acted by filing this complaint. The issue of invalid EIAs is still awaiting a final judgment by the Supreme Court of Spain.

Jordi Sebastià urges the competent services of the EC "to take acquaintance of this comprehensive report and if necessary ask questions and clarifications to the Spanish and Navarra authorities. If these answers are not satisfactory and these violations of the European law persist, the EC, in accordance with the Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), should open, without further delay, infringement proceedings against the Spanish Government and make applied without delay the relevant European regulations."

The high-speed train (TAV) or High Performance (TAP) project in Navarra is not supported by a socio-economic profitability study, despite an anticipated cost of 900 million euros (equivalent to 5% of GDP of Navarra) for only 65 km of new track, totally isolated, with no direct connection to other high-speed or with other European gauge railways. If it continues, this extravagance will increase the deficit and public debt of Spain and Navarre, at the expense of Navarra, particularly its Central Zone that faces the threat of future expropriations of private and communal land for the construction of the new railway platform areas. The new route would be parallel to the existing railway line that could be modernized by the technology of the third rail track for one tenth the cost of TAV. Also, if the building a new railway platform continues, the main station of the current railway line in Tafalla will be closed. So, it is not surprising that in recent regional and municipal elections of May 24, the rejection of the TAV has resulted in a significant electoral support for candidacies opposing the TAV/TAP project, calling for the freezing of the ongoing works.

In conclusion, Jordi Sebastià urged the EC to "decisively and quickly act knowing that the construction of the TAV still continue in the Castejón-Cadreita subsection (8.5 km) from the outgoing government of Navarra and the Ministry of Development of Spain initiated the expropriation procedure  in the Villafranca-Tafalla subsection (30 km) ". He added that "the legal response of the EC cannot come once built an infrastructure of such magnitude, whose promoters and the authorities themselves have been 'mocking' the European legislation since 2011".

More information available on:

Fundación Sustrai Erakuntza
Web pages: http://www.fundacionsustrai.org/ & http://www.sustraierakuntza.org/
Email: sustrai@fundacionsustrai.org

The Greens/European Free Alliance in the European Parliament
Web: http://www.greens-efa.eu/
Email: rosa.llobregat@europarl.europa.eu

Jordi Sebastiá on Twitter when complaint was delivered