Germany loses key EU court case on nitrates

Commission wins on manure spreading limits; ECJ opinion against Italy on batteries

Germany is allowing farmers to spread excessive amounts of manure on land and is therefore infringing the EU's 1991 directive on nitrate pollution, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled today. The judgement establishes that member states must abide exactly by EU limits set for farms' nitrate outputs if they are located in a "nitrate vulnerable zone".

The German system of allowing farmers to spread 10-25% more manure on land than prescribed in the directive on the basis that the resulting extra nitrate pollution load evaporates before it is absorbed into soil cannot be justified, the court ruled. The judgement broadly reflects an opinion issued by an ECJ advisory judge last autumn (EED 04/10/01).

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