Commission acts over environment law failures

Reasoned opinions sent to nine members over water, waste, birds, industrial accident, directives

The European Commission is to send final legal warnings to the majority of the fifteen EU member states over failure to respect EU environmental laws. Nine governments are to receive reasoned opinions alleging failure to implement directives on bathing waters, wild birds, sewage treatment, waste incineration and industrial accident prevention. If replies required from governments within two months do not satisfy the Commission, it could launch court action over the cases.

* Bathing water directive: The UK is the Commission's latest target in an extensive programme of legal actions relating to the 1976 directive. It complains that the country is "consistently failing" to meet the directive's water quality standards. In recent years the UK's compliance rate with mandatory standards has hovered around 89%, compared with an EU average of around 93% (ENDS Daily 25 May).

The warning is to be sent because the UK is 15 years late in implementing the directive, the Commission said, although it noted recent promises by the government that compliance with mandatory standards should reach 97% within the next decade.

* Wild birds directive: Despite a "detailed exchange" of information, including submission of new legislation, SWEDEN still fails to ensure that plans and projects likely to have significant impacts on specially protected areas undergo an environmental impact assessment, according to the Commission. Moreover, it says, the terms under which certain plans can secure exemptions from the 1979 directive are unclear.

* Urban waste water treatment directive: This 1991 EU law requires member states to apply minimum sewage treatment standards, with tighter requirements for areas in sensitive zones. The Commission says that two states in GERMANY - Lower Saxony and Saxony Anhalt - should apply the stricter requirements because their rivers flow into areas of the Baltic and North Seas burdened by high nutrient levels. In addition, it says, Germany is failing to respect certain specific requirements concerning sewage collection and monitoring, and industrial waste waters.

* Municipal waste incineration directives: FRANCE is to receive a reasoned opinion for failing to prevent illegally high emissions, including dioxins. A report by the French environment ministry confirmed earlier this year that at least 12 plants were failing to comply with two 1989 directives. Although the French government has given assurances that the plants will comply by the end of 1999, the warning is being issued "to ensure public confidence in relation to waste incineration," said the Commission.

* Major accident hazards directive: As we reported last week (ENDS Daily 18 October), the Commission has decided to send reasoned opinions to FRANCE, LUXEMBOURG, IRELAND, GREECE, PORTUGAL and AUSTRIA alleging failure to transpose the 1996 Seveso II directive. The six countries have either not communicated legislation by the deadline of February this year or have failed to adopt substantial parts of the directive, the Commission said.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111. References: Press notices for all cases mentioned can be found on Rapid.

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