At the same time, Swedish environment minister Andreas Carlgren unveiled plans for strengthening the Swedish wolf pack by introducing new wolves.
“We’re now taking a collective step in order to get viable wolves,” Carlgren told reporters in Stockholm.
According to Carlgren, decisions to add new wolves will be taken locally. He added that Sweden also plans to continue with a licenced wolf hunt.
“This isn’t coming as an answer to the Commission’s questions,” he said.
Sweden plans to introduce new wolf pups to the country’s existing wolf population starting in April.
“One or a few adults wolves will be moved later this year or next year, but that will only happen after they’ve been under close observation and have undergone a thorough examination by veterinarians,” said Carlgren.
Thursday’s decision by the European Commission to formally report Sweden wasn’t unexpected, as EU environment commissioner Janez Potocnik had issued several previous warnings that he considered Sweden’s wolf hunt to be in breach of EU laws.
Practically speaking, the move means the EU now sends a formal notification which Sweden must answer within two months.
If the answers aren’t satisfactory, the matter proceeds further and could eventually end up in court.
Potocnik writes that it is “highly doubtful” that Sweden’s wolf policy – despite “a lively exchange of information” between the Swedish government and the European Commission since June 2010 – complies with EU environmental legislation.
He takes issue not only with allowing the hunt despite the wolf’s poor conservation status in Sweden, but also with the decision to arbitrarily set the limit for the size of the wolf pack at 210 animals.
Potocnik also criticised Sweden for allowing the hunt before new wolves are introduced to the pack.
Carlgren remained confident that Sweden would prevail in the dispute.
“We’ll continue to inform the Commission about our work and I’m convinced that we’ll be able to assuage the doubts that the Commission has about our wolf policy,” he said.
“We think that policies for Swedish predatory animal policies should be set in Sweden, according to Swedish circumstances, not in Brussels.”
The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) welcomed the Commission’s decision to launch a formal infringement procedure against Sweden, hoping the country ends up before the European Court of Justice.
“Hopefully we’ll never have to see these hunts of a protected, threatened predatory animal. The licenced hunts in 2010 and 2011 have weakened the Swedish wolf pack and made it more vulnerable to illness and illegal hunting,” SSNC chair Mikael Karlsson said in a statement.
Sweden opened a hunting season on January 15 allowing hunters to kill 20 wolves. More than 6,700 hunters participated in the hunt, the commission said.
The hunt follows a 2009 decision by parliament to limit the wolf population to 210 animals, spread out in 20 packs, with 20 new pups per year, for a period of five years by issuing hunting permits in regions where wolves have recently reproduced.
Sweden resumed wolf hunting last year when it set a quota of 28 wolves. It was the first wolf hunt since 1964.
Should the case reach the European Court of Justice, Sweden could be slapped with hefty fines for violating EU rules.