Plus side of EU's green expansion stressed

Compliance with air quality directives in 13 accession countries will prevent deaths, bronchitis, says study

A study for the European Commission shows that massive investment required by EU candidate countries in order to comply with the bloc's environmental laws will bring enormous benefits including the prevention of thousands of premature deaths, incidences of respiratory illness and improving child health. The study's findings were presented last week in Brussels as part of "green week" by the report's authors, environmental consultancy Ecotec.

The report sets out to address what Ecotec calls an imbalance in the debate around implementation of EU law. This is "often focused on the costs of compliance," it notes, while "there has...been little discussion about the benefits that EU environmental directives will imply".

A raft of benefits would result from full implementation of EU directives in the 13 accession countries, the consultancy suggests. Compliance with air quality laws alone could lead to a reduction of between 15,000 and 34,000 premature deaths from exposure to particulate pollution and between 43,000 and 180,000 fewer cases of chronic bronchitis, currently caused largely by burning lignite.

* In a related development, a high level delegation from the 14 countries of the Carpathia/ Danube basin region met in Bucharest, Romania, on Sunday and Monday to discuss how the ecology of the area could be restored and made sustainable.

The participants - from Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia - included heads of state and ministers. The meeting ended with a joint declaration expressing support for "international and regional co-operation for maintaining a rehabilitation of natural assets and for improving the state of the environment".

Follow Up:
European Commission tel: +32 2 299 1111; Ecotec, tel: +44 121 6163600. Bucharest summit and press release; WWF International, tel: +41 22 364 9111 and {press release}.

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