Summer is on its way, and millions of holidaymakers prepare to descend on Europe's beaches. But do we know how clean the bathing water is? This week the commission adopted its annual bathing water quality report, which has encouraging news. More than 96% of coastal sites now meet the legal quality requirements. Although freshwater bathing areas score less well, they are still far cleaner than in 2005.
The report compares information from all the EU countries for the first time. While the "old" member countries might have better results, the "new" have made the greatest progress year on year.
Bathing water is analysed every year on the basis of physical, chemical and bacteriological criteria. EU law lays down minimum standards to be respected by national governments, and additional criteria for countries who want to go even further.
Over 21 000 areas were checked in 2006, more than the previous year. But 254 sites were withdrawn from national lists last year, sometimes with no justification, masking the pollution problem by skewing the results of the annual report. The commission is therefore launching infringement proceedings against 11 EU countries for withdrawing some 7 000 sites from their national lists since the beginning of the '90s.
For a worry-free holiday, check out the annual reports and the tourism atlas on the commission's bathing water site.