Times of Malta, 17 February 2009

The government has no intention of breaking the law on the proposed Għadira road, an application for which is being finalised by the Malta Transport Authority, the transport ministry said yesterday.

The ministry was replying to a statement issued by Labour MEP Louis Grech, whom it accused of wrongly concluding that the European Commission was in some way concerned about plans to re-route the road linking Mellieħa to Ċirkewwa.

Mr Grech had earlier quoted Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas as saying that the Commission would submit its concerns on the proposed road to the planning authority and mightmake a formal complaint if it found evidence of violation of EU rules.

Replying to a question in the European, Mr Dimas said no complaint about the proposed road had been received.

The Commission, however, always made it clear that projects co-funded through structural funds, or as part of the Trans-European Transport Network, had to respect environmental laws, including the Habitats Directive.

While no complaints had been received, the Commission would express its concerns with the Malta Environment and Planning Authority as the competent authority responsible for the Habitats Directive in Malta.

Mr Dimas said it needed to be established whether the authorities had made a proper risk analysis of the possible impact on the nearby special conservation area.

The ministry said the Commission replied to Mr Grech in the only way it could: that is, what the law stipulated if the government broke the law. The government did not have any intention of breaking the law and therefore the question and answer in the European Parliament did not add anything to what was already known.

The facts now were that the transport authority was finalising its application before Mepa in conformity with the law as had already been repeatedly stated by the government, the ministry added.

The proposed road has been met with scepticism and harsh criticism from BirdLife Malta and other organisations who say it will cut across protected woodland and nature areas.

However, the government has always insisted this will not be the case and argued that the existing Għadira road depletes the beach and prevents the natural migration of sand dunes