Greece, Luxembourg, condemned on EU water law

Countries failed to comply with 1976 "dangerous substances" directive, European Court rules

Greece and Luxembourg have both failed to comply with the EU's 1976 directive controlling "dangerous substances" in the aquatic environment, the European Court of Justice ruled yesterday in separate cases. Under the dangerous substances directive, EU member states are required to prepare programmes for achieving EU-wide quality standards for specified substances and to put in place a system of prior authorisation for any discharges of these substances. In infringement proceedings launched as long ago as 1989 in one case, the European Commission alleged that both Luxembourg and Greece had failed to comply with these requirements. The Luxembourg government's plea that it had no industries discharging substances controlled under the directive's so-called "grey list" was rejected by the court, in particular because its representative later admitted at a hearing that this was not so (Case C-206/96). On the same day, the court ruled against Greece on two linked cases, one relating to pollution of Lake Vegorrítis and its tributary the Soulos river (C-232/95) and the other to the Gulf of Pagasaí (C-233/95). In the first of these, the court noted that Greece had "totally failed to establish the programmes" required under the dangerous substances directive, and that it had "not even communicated to the Commission an overall study of the level of pollution of the waters in question".

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