Guilty verdict in Spanish bathing water case

Commission wins European Court judgement over failure to comply with 1976 law

Spain has failed to properly implement the 1976 EU bathing water directive, the European Court of Justice ruled last week. The European Commission, which brought the case, said that pollutant limit values in inland bathing waters were still being exceeded long after the 10-year implementation deadline had passed. The court rejected Spain's defence that the exceedences were due to "exceptional circumstances," such as drought, and that changes in bathing habits had reduced the need for strict controls (ENDS Daily 6 October 1997). Responding to the case today, a Spanish environment ministry spokesperson said that the ruling "cannot be seen as unfair". Spanish environmental groups are not surprised by the judgement. Political decisions rather than drought have caused poor water quality, Greenpeace Spain told ENDS Daily. "Water policy in Spain has always focused on quantity and not begun to consider quality," a spokesperson said. Spain is not the only EU country to have had problems with the bathing water directive. Last year, the Commission issued final warnings to Italy, Portugal and the Netherlands, and Belgium was threatened with Court action regarding its inland waters (ENDS Daily 7 January). The Court is currently considering a case brought against Germany.

Follow Up:
European Court of Justice, tel: +352 43031; Spanish environment ministry, tel: +34 1 597 5908.

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