The huge cost to prospective EU members in central and eastern Europe of complying with EU environmental laws - estimated at euros 120bn - will be returned in economic benefits alone, a soon to be released European Commission study will conclude. EU environment commissioner Margot Wallström said on Friday that the study would show that the "pure economic benefits of required investments will outweigh the costs". Speaking to accession country environment ministers, she stressed that these benefits would be "in addition to environmental and health benefits" from the expenditure. Ms Wallström went on to reaffirm the Commission's view that accession countries have been transposing EU environmental laws too slowly. She stressed to ministers that early action must be taken over nature protection, environmental impact assessment and framework laws on air, water and waste. She added that accession countries would have to meet environmental requirements related to industrial activities if they wanted to enter EU markets, thus preventing the scope for environmental "dumping". The key question of the extent to which accession countries will be granted extra time to fully comply with EU directives in difficult areas such as sewage treatment was not on the agenda and would be tackled when formal negotiations began next year, she told journalists during the talks.
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