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IP/10/1574

Brussels, 24 November 2010

Environment: Commission urges Luxembourg to implement Court ruling on water pollution

The European Commission is urging Luxembourg to implement a Court ruling and comply with measures to combat water pollution caused by nitrates. Luxembourg was condemned by the European Court of Justice in June this year for its failure to adopt action plans for zones vulnerable to nitrate pollution, as required by EU law. Despite the judgement, Luxembourg still does not fully comply with the legislation and has not indicated how it intends to implement the ruling. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, a letter of formal notice is therefore being sent. Luxembourg has two months to comply with the request. Failing this, the Commission may decide to refer the case back to the European Court of Justice and propose financial penalties.

The Nitrates Directive aims to protect water quality across Europe by preventing nitrates from agricultural sources polluting ground and surface waters and by promoting the use of good farming practices.

On 29 June 2010 Luxembourg was condemned by the European Court of Justice for having incorrectly transposed articles 4 and 5 of Directive relating to the need to adopt action plans for zones which are vulnerable to nitrate pollution.

Following the judgement, the Commission asked the Luxembourg authorities to indicate how and by when they intended to comply with the judgement. Since the Commission has not received a reply, it is issuing a letter of formal notice. In the absence of a satisfactory response from Luxembourg, the Commission could refer the case back to the Court.

Background

Directive 91/676/EEC concerning the protection of waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources requires Member States to monitor their waters and identify those affected, or likely to be affected, by pollution. It requires Member States to designate as Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ) all known areas of land in their territories which drain into these waters and which contribute to pollution. They must also set up appropriate action programmes for these zones.

Excess levels of nitrates can damage freshwaters and the marine environment by promoting excessive growth of algae that chokes other life, a process known as eutrophication.

For current statistics on infringements in general see:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/legal/implementation_en.htm

For more details on infringement procedures in general, see MEMO/10/605


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