Court confirms EU environmental law breaches

Germany, Italy, condemned over directives on hazardous substances, marine pollution

The European Court of Justice yesterday upheld European Commission accusations that Germany had failed to comply with the 1976 dangerous substances in water directive and that Italy had failed to transpose a 1995 marine pollution directive. Although Germany has stricter emission limits than is required on all substances covered by the water protection directive, the Commission brought the action because it had failed to establish "water quality objectives" and pollution reduction programmes for 99 "grey list" substances that are not yet subject to emission limits (ENDS Daily 11 June). The court dismissed Germany's argument that none of the substances was released in high enough concentrations to cause pollution, saying that the directive applied to any level of discharge. It also rejected Germany's view that water quality objectives had no legal force because they were insufficient in themselves to influence individuals' behaviour towards less polluting practices. Finally, it judged that the action programmes put in place in several parts of the country did not conform to the directive's requirements. In a second judgement, Italy was condemned for failing to enact a directive setting standards for pollution prevention in ships. The court ruled that internal guidelines on standards were not legally binding enough to satisfy the directive's requirements.

Follow Up:
European Court of Justice, tel: +352 43031. References: The texts of the judgements are available on the court's web site; Case reference numbers: Germany, C-184/97; Italy, C-315/98.

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