MEPs deplore EU law compliance failures

Parliamentary committee calls for Commission action over nitrates, PCB, directives

Members of the European Parliament environment committee meeting in Brussels this week reiterated growing concerns over poor national compliance with EU environmental laws. MEPs debated reports charting slow progress over two particular environmental directives and adopted a text drafted by chairman Caroline Jackson challenging the European Commission to react to the "extremely poor rate of implementation".

The political significance of EU environmental law compliance has climbed significantly in the last year or so. The EU's impending eastern enlargement has focused attention on the many present member states that have not fully implemented laws. EU environment commissioner Margot Wallström made better implementation one of her key priorities on taking office last year (ENDS Daily 3 September 1999).

More recently, the European Parliament has been making strong running on the issue, including a damning assessment of the situation from Ms Jackson, in which she castigated member states and the European Commission alike (ENDS Daily 3 November). Committee member Dagmar Roth Behrendt pledged during this week's session to challenge each new incoming EU presidency to clean up its act at home before proposing ambitious new European environmental initiatives.

The committee debated a report by UK Conservative Robert Goodwill on implementation of the 1991 directive on nitrate pollution and one by UK Socialist David Bowe on the 1996 directive on disposal of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Mr Goodwill's report describes implementation of the nitrates directive as "extremely unsatisfactory," with the sole exceptions of Denmark and Sweden. His report also criticises the Commission for being "slow to censure" governments failing to comply with the law, as well as exploring possible reasons for member states' "abysmal record".

Mr Bowe's report on the PCBs directive shows that legal infringement actions are underway against all EU members bar Finland and the Netherlands for various compliance failures. Despite the existing rules, there is still a substantial amount of PCB in use, he writes. Human intake has not declined and may be increasing. Holders of PCBs are trying to find unofficial ways of disposing of them to avoid the high costs of high-temperature incineration.

"This is clearly an unacceptable situation posing serious and ongoing threats to the environment and public health, and the Commission and member states must act immediately to remedy this situation," Mr Bowe concludes.

Follow Up:
European Parliament environment committee, tel: +32 2 284 2111. See the full reports here, marked as "PCBs and PCTs - Bowe" and "Nitrates - Goodwill".

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