Ursula von der Leyen is on a wolf hunt again.
After his beloved pony was killed by a wolf in Germany last year, the President of the European Commission has called for a reassessment of strict wolf protection rules across the continent.
Brussels is now entering “a new phase” in its efforts to combat the return of wolves and is asking “local communities, scientists and all interested parties” for data on the impact of the animal, von der Leyen.
The Commission will use this data to decide whether to propose changing the protection status of the wolf in the EU “if appropriate” and “to update the legal framework and introduce, if necessary, further of flexibility”.
Von der Leyen also urged “local and national authorities to take action if necessary”, warning that “the concentration of wolf packs in certain European regions has become a real danger for livestock and potentially also for humans”.
Wolves are a strictly protected species under the European Habitats Directive and the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, which means their capture and killing is prohibited. But certain exemptions apply, in particular when the wolves represent a danger for the man or the cattle.
Associations of hunters and farmers have long called on Brussels to review the protection status of the wolf in order to allow them to kill more of them, argue that farmers are under “enormous pressure” to protect their livestock.
Von der Leyen’s right-wing political family, the European People’s Party, has also sounded the alarm in the face of rising numbers of wolf attacks, as he seeks to position himself as a defender of farming and rural communities ahead of next year’s European elections.
European environment ministers want the Commission to guarantee the protection status of the wolf. Environmental groups have also pushed back against the EPP’s arguments, stressing that wolves remain an endangered species and that lowering their protection status would jeopardize their long-term recovery.