Spain in hot water over nitrate pollution

European Court advisor backs Commission complaint over action programme delays

A legal advisor to the European Court of Justice has recommended that Spain be condemned for failing to fully implement the 1991 EU directive on nitrate pollution from agricultural sources.

In an opinion released yesterday, the advocate general Georges Cosmas agreed with the European Commission that the country should have drawn up action programmes for reducing nitrate pollution in areas designated as vulnerable by December 1995. He dismissed Spain's defence that this would have been impossible since the directive had not been transposed into national law until February 1996, necessitating some further delay before all its elements could be implemented.

In any case, Mr Cosmas noted, not only had Spain not met the 1995 deadline for drawing up action programmes, but this failing had continued after the European Commission had sent formal warnings in April and November 1997, following which it launched court action in July 1998 (ENDS Daily 7 April 1998). A panel of judges should now rule on the case within a few months. They are not bound to accept the advocate general's opinion.

Follow Up:
European Court of Justice, tel: +352 43031. See the full text of the advocate general's opinion, reference C-274/98, on the court's web site under "recent case law".

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