More EU countries in trouble over nitrates law

European Court of Justice set to rule against nine states after latest Commission action

The number of EU countries facing a European Court of Justice judgement for non-compliance with EU rules on preventing agricultural nitrates pollution rose to nine yesterday with a European Commission announcement of action against Luxembourg. Three other countries are to receive warnings of similar action, the Commission said. Only two EU members are not currently the subject of infringement proceedings over the 1991 nitrates directive.

According to the Commission, Luxembourg's legislation "fails to adequately reflect requirements on the need for balance between crop needs and the availability of nitrates from different sources." It says two previous warnings have failed to produce the necessary legal changes.

Finland is to be sent a first warning, or formal notice, for non-compliance with the directive. The Commission says Finnish authorities have not ensured that livestock manure storage vessels are big enough, and have not prohibited manure spreading in autumn as required. The UK is to receive a second warning, or reasoned opinion, over failure to designate an estuary in Scotland as a nitrate vulnerable zone, while Portugal will be sent a formal notice because the Commission says its action programme to combat nitrates is insufficient.

EU environment commissioner Margot Wallström said yesterday that "increased action" was needed to curb nitrate pollution "right across the community." No judgements have been passed on any of the nine countries before the court over the nitrates law. Ongoing cases against Italy and Spain are most advanced, a Commission official told ENDS Daily today, but rulings are not expected before the end of this year. Several countries are subject to more than one infringement action simultaneously.

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Status of nitrates directive infringement actions
            Stage of most advanced action
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Austria           Reasoned opinion
Belgium           European Court
Denmark           No action
Finland           Formal notice
France            European Court
Germany           European Court
Greece            European Court
Ireland           Reasoned opinion
Italy             European Court
Luxembourg        European Court
Netherlands       European Court
Portugal          Formal notice
Spain             European Court
Sweden            No action
United Kingdom    European Court
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Source:  European Commission
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Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111; see also press release IP/00/332 dated 4 April on Rapid.

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