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Brussels, 16 February 2011

Environment: Commission warns Poland over failures to protect its sea

The Commission is asking Poland to comply with EU legislation requiring Member States to draw up marine strategies to protect their seas. Poland has failed to inform the Commission about the transposition of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, which should have been in place by 15 July 2010. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion. If Poland fails to inform the Commission within two months of the measures taken to transpose the relevant EU legislation, the Commission could refer the case to the European Court of Justice. In case Poland doesn't comply with its legal obligation, the Commission may refer this Member State to the Court of Justice and may already ask the Court to impose financial sanctions at this stage, without having to return to the Court for a second ruling.1

Europe is committed to protecting marine ecosystems and biodiversity. Marine activities such as fishing, tourism and recreation rely on good quality waters. Europe's marine waters (including the Mediterranean Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea and the North-east Atlantic Ocean, and the waters surrounding the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands) are protected by a central piece of European legislation, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive 2008/56/EC. This aims to ensure that Europe's seas achieve good environmental status by 2020. The Directive requires Member States to draw up coordinated strategies to protect and restore Europe's marine ecosystems, and to ensure the ecological sustainability of activities linked to the marine environment. Delays in implementing the Directive lessen the chances of good status being achieved within the timeframe, with potentially serious implications for the users of Europe's seas.

Member States assess the ecological status of their marine waters and the impact of human activities, before granting "good environmental status" for these waters. This is determined on the basis of criteria including biodiversity, fish stock health, concentrations of contaminants and the presence of eutrophication (excessive growth of algae that chokes off other organisms), non-indigenous species, marine litter and underwater noise pollution. Targets and indicators are then set to achieve this good environmental status, with a programme of measures to achieve the objectives.

The timely transposition of EU legislation is a priority for the Commission. Under new policy, in cases where Member States have failed to transpose EU legislation into national law within the required deadline, the Commission now can ask for financial sanctions to be imposed at the first referral to Court. This policy was adopted in November 2010 and entered into force on 15 January 20112.

More details on marine environment policy:

For current statistics on infringements in general, see:

See also MEMO/11/86

1 :

Directive adopted under a legislative procedure

2 :

Communication on the Implementation of Article 260 (3) of the Treaty (OJ C 12,15.1.2011, p1)

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