From the office of the Green MEPs

14 October, 2002


WORK has begun on a controversial 100m mast at a British military base in Cyprus before a report into the antenna's impact on more than 240 bird species has been completed, according to London's Green MEP Jean Lambert.

"The British military has initiated studies into the likely effects of building the mast on migratory birds visiting the site - but it is clearly going ahead with construction in advance of their findings," said Mrs Lambert.

Mrs Lambert, who has just returned from a fact-finding visit to the Akrotiri military base on the Mediterranean island nation - which is set to join the EU in 2004 - said local feelings are running high.

There have already been anti-British demonstrations on the island in protest at the mast, which will devastate an internationally significant bird habitat used by two-thirds of all species visiting Cyprus, a key stop-over for migratory birds en route from Africa to Europe. Locals also fear the mast will be play a role in any UK attack on Iraq, making Cyprus a likely target for terrorist reprisals.

A delegation of legal experts and environmentalists will make a return visit to London later this month to take up the case with the UK authorities.

Speaking at a press conference outside the base, Mrs Lambert - who later discussed the case with Cyprus Green MP George Perdikis - said: "What are we doing allowing any sort of installation - whether a giant fish and chip shop or a 100m military antenna - to be built on a site of international ecological significance?

"Twenty or thirty years ago this site would have been viewed as empty space but we have all moved on. People can clearly see the importance of protecting such a significant habitat and the migratory birds which rely on it year after year."

Planners in Cyprus have no jurisdiction over the development, which is wholly within British sovereign territory. Most of the base is legally protected from development under the Ramsar Convention, which recognises Akrotiri as an important but endangered wetland habitat.

But the mast will be constructed on a pocket of land exempted from the Ramsar protection at the insistence of British military planners. Mrs Lambert said: "There are clearly serious questions to be asked about why this site was exempted from international protection - if the British army had not always intended to build on it why did it insist on its exclusion?

"We need to change our attitude here. Either the site is protected - and its significance is not in dispute - or it isn't."


For more information please contact Ben Duncan on 020 7407 6280 or 0776 997 0691