Island MP Karmenu Vella nominated as European commissioner to head green policies, including wildlife protection
Robin McKie, science editor
The Observer, Saturday 27 September 2014 20.31 BST
Karmenu Vella has unusual credentials for a man selected to be the next European commissioner for the environment. The 64-year-old politician is a long-serving member of Malta's Labour government, which is accused of direct involvement in the widespread slaughter of birdlife on the island – including many endangered species.
Every spring and autumn, thousands of migratory birds – including quails, song thrushes and brood eagles – pass over Malta as they fly between northern Europe and Africa, only to be greeted by thousands of local hunters who gather in trucks bearing slogans like "If it flies it dies". They duly open fire on the birds.
"Turtle doves have suffered a catastrophic decline in western Europe, including Britain. Yet the Maltese government continues to allow them to be shot in their thousands every year," said Andre Farrar of the RSPB. "This slaughter has widespread implications and involves dozens of rare species, many of them regular visitors to the British Isles."
Campaigners say Malta's bird culls, which have intensified over the last two years, have been specifically encouraged by its Labour government. For example, new rules have extended shooting curfews, which previously limited the hours when hunters are permitted to fire at birds each day. Such moves have helped make Malta the ecological pariah of Europe.