Nature: Commission decides to refer PORTUGAL back to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failure to comply with previous judgment on conservation of Natura 2000 sites

Today, the European Commission decided to refer Portugal back to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failure to comply with the Court's judgment of 5 September 2019 in case C‑290/18.

In its judgment of 5 September 2019, the Court of Justice ruled that Portugal had failed to designate 61 Sites of Community Importance (SCIs) as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), as required by the Habitats Directive (Directive 92/43/EEC). The Court of Justice also declared that Portugal had failed to adopt the necessary conservation measures for those sites.

Following the judgment of the Court, Portugal formally designated the 61 sites concerned as SACs by adopting a dedicated decree. However, this designation is not sufficient to comply with the judgment as Portugal also needs to adopt conservation objectives and measures to comply with the judgment.

Therefore, the Commission has decided to refer this case back to the Court of Justice of the European Union. This second referral to the Court may result in financial penalties for the time elapsed from the first judgment until achieving compliance.


The Habitats Directive is a key piece of European biodiversity protection legislation. In line with the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, it is crucial for the EU to halt biodiversity loss and reverse the degradation of ecosystems, as the EU's economy, society and environment depend on the various services provided by biodiverse ecosystems. 

The Habitats Directive establishes Natura 2000, an EU-wide network of protected natural areas, made of SACs and special protection areas for birds (SPAs) under the Birds Directive (Directive 2009/147/EC). Each Member State identifies and proposes sites that are important for the conservation of species and habitats occurring naturally in their territory. The Commission subsequently adopts them as Sites of Community importance, or SCIs. Member States then have up to six years to formally designate them as SACs, and to introduce the necessary conservation objectives and measures to maintain or restore the species and habitats present in the site to a favourable conservation status in the relevant biogeographical region in the country.

More Information

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Infringement decision Portugal (INFR(2015)2002)

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