Luxembourg (dpa) - The European Court of Justice has strengthened the right of field hamsters to their habitat.

Resting and breeding sites of European hamsters may not be destroyed even if the animals no longer claim them, but may return there, as the Luxembourg judges ruled on Thursday (Case C-477/19).

The background is construction work in Austria for which a construction road has been created. However, not only was the permit lacking, they also destroyed entrances to hamster buildings. An administrative authority had subsequently fined the senior manager of the construction company. The latter then appeals to the administrative court.

The employee argued that at the time of construction, the field hamsters had not used their burrows. In addition, their resting or reproductive sites would not have been damaged or destroyed by the construction.

The administrative court finally stayed the proceedings and asked the CJEU to clarify the concept of resting places in the relevant EU directive on species protection. The judges now emphasized that this should also include resting places that were no longer claimed by protected animal species such as the European hamster, but that there was a sufficiently high probability that this species would return. The administrative court in Austria must now clarify whether there is a likelihood of the rodents returning.

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Link to the legal text of Directive 92/43 / EEC

Case C-477/19

ECJ judgment on Case C-477/19