EU represented by European Commission to participate for first time as full Party with 28 Member states in one voting bloc.

Providing analysis at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in Johannesburg, on behalf of Fondation Franz Weber and the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation.  

Outlook for today – Saturday 24 September

The 17th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora opens today in Johannesburg, South Africa.  After an opening ceremony and welcoming addresses, negotiations begin this afternoon on administrative and financial matters.

These technical discussions may be enlivened because the European Union, represented by the European Commission, will participate for the first time as a full Party at the CITES meeting, representing all 28 EU Member States in one voting bloc.

In question is whether the EU will have 28 votes in every vote, or only the number of votes for the Member States in the room at the time of the vote.  This will be discussed today under Agenda Item 4, «Rules of Procedure.» The document with these rules can be found here. See page 30 for «Rule 26» which states:
3. In the fields of their competence, regional economic integration organisations shall exercise their right to vote with a number of votes equal to the number of their Member States which are Party to the Convention. Such organisations shall not exercise their right to vote if their Member States exercise theirs, and vice versa. [When REIOs exercise their right to vote, they shall do so only with a number of votes equal to the number of their Member States that are present at the time of the vote, and are eligible to vote].
Quote from Robert Hepworth, Former Chair of the CITES Standing Committee and Senior Advisor to David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
«The voting rules state that regional economic organizations such as the EU, when voting as a bloc, have only the number of votes equal to the number of their Member States ‘that are present at the time of the vote’. There are two interpretations to this rule: present in the room or present at the Conference of the Parties.  If the latter interpretation supported by the European Commission is recognised, any Member State not present in the room at the time of the vote will still be allowed to «vote» as part of  the EU block vote.»
«It's taken 33 years for the 1983 «Gaborone» amendment allowing EU accession to CITES to be ratified by sufficient Parties. As the former head of UK CITES Management Authority (1983-86 and 1994-2000) and Executive Secretary 2005-09 of CITES' sister convention (Convention on Migratory Species) where EU ratification was allowed from the start, I never had the slightest doubt that all Parties covered by a bloc vote must be represented in the room. Otherwise the rule is a nonsense as EU member states do not even need to participate in the debate in order to ‘vote’. No other Parties have the right to cast proxy votes and the EU should not be an exception to this.»

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Background on CITES

CITES was established in 1973, entered into force in 1975, and accords varying degrees of protection to more than 35,000 species of animals and plants.  Currently 182 countries are Parties to the Convention.
Background on ivory trade

All populations of African elephants were listed on CITES Appendix I in 1989, effectively banning international ivory trade.  But the protection was weakened in 1997 and 2000 when populations in four countries (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe) were down-listed to Appendix II (a less endangered status) to allow two sales of ivory stockpiles to Japan and China in 1999 and 2008.
About FFW and DSWF

Fondation Franz Weber (FFW), based in Switzerland, has been campaigning for the survival of the African elephant and the complete ban of the trade in ivory for 40 years. FFW has had observer status at CITES since 1989 and has been a partner of the African Elephant Coalition since its creation in 2008.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) based in the UK, is an adaptable and flexible organization responding promptly to conservation threats by supporting trusted, reputable individuals and organizations operating in the field.  Lean on administration but generous on funding, DSWF supports a range of innovative and vital projects throughout Africa and Asia.