Third round of EU legal cases announced

Member states facing court action over EMAS regulation, bathing water directive

The European Commission has announced more legal infringement proceedings against member states for non-compliance with environmental legislation. In a series of press releases published over the last two days, the Commission gives details of planned court action against Greece and Portugal over the EU eco-management and audit scheme, EMAS. It has also announced court action against Austria for non-implementation of the bathing water directive.

Greece and Portugal currently have no accreditations under the EMAS scheme, along with Iceland and Liechtenstein (ENDS Daily 26 November). However, EMAS uptake is rising across the EU as a whole. The Commission says it is "concerned" that Greece and Portugal's poor record is due to their failure to establish the necessary accreditation systems and appoint the necessary competent bodies to manage the scheme.

In the case of Austria, the Commission says court action is merited as Austria has failed to notify its intent to adopt the legislation needed to implement the bathing water directive. The directive seeks to harmonise bathing water standards across the EU. Austria should have adopted legislation by the beginning of 1997.

The Commission has already announced over 40 infringement proceedings in the last two weeks (ENDS Daily 11 December). This includes several formal notices under article 171 of the EU treaty (ENDS Daily 15 December). A final batch of cases is expected to be announced in the next few days, which should bring the total number of cases up to around 90, the Commission has said.

Details of the latest batch of cases follow. Further information can be found on the Commission's web site:

* EMAS, the EU eco-management and audit scheme. The Commission has made court applications against GREECE and PORTUGAL.

* Bathing water directive, 1976. Court action has been announced against AUSTRIA. The Commission will also send reasoned opinions to DENMARK and FINLAND for non-conformity of national legislation with the EU directive. Both countries make insufficient provision for monitoring total coliforms, and Finland also makes insufficient provision for salmonella monitoring, the Commission states.

* 1996 directive on the disposal of polychlorinated biphenyls and polychlorinated terphenyls (PCBs/PCTs). The Commission will send reasoned opinions to DENMARK, GERMANY, GREECE, SPAIN, ITALY, PORTUGAL and the UK for failing to notify the Commission of legislation to implement the directive. The directive aims to streamline national legislation governing the decontamination or disposal of equipment containing PCBs.

* The Commission will send a reasoned opinion to BELGIUM over environmental authorisations required under several EU environmental directives. According to the Commission, authorisations are being given by the Flanders and Wallonia regions by default rather than as an "express act" as required under EU law.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111. References: Press notices on all cases mentioned are available on the Commission's Rapid service.

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