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IP/11/174

Brussels, 16 February 2011

Environment: Commission asks Poland to comply with EU water quality legislation

The Commission is asking Poland to comply with EU legislation on environmental quality standards for surface water. Poland has failed to inform the Commission about the full transposition of this legislation into national law. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion. Poland has two months to respond. 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

The Priority Substances Directive protects the environment and human health by setting limits for certain substances and groups of substances that are known to pose a substantial risk to the aquatic environment.

Member States had to bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the Priority Substances Directive by 13 July 2010, and inform the Commission they had done so. As Poland did not notify the Commission of all the implementing measures in time, a letter of formal notice was sent on 20 September 2010. Since not all the legislation has been adopted and notified to the Commission, a reasoned opinion is being sent. If Poland does not take appropriate action within two months, the Commission may refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

The timely transposition of EU legislation is a priority for the Commission, as delays can mean continued environmental degradation. Under new policy in cases where Member States have failed to transpose EU legislation into national law within the required deadline, the Commission can now 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.

Background

The Priority Substances Directive is a consequence of the Water Framework Directive, the main piece of legislation protecting Europe's waters. The framework directive aims to achieve high environmental quality standards in various areas by set deadlines (surface waters, for instance, have to achieve good chemical status by 2015), and the Priority Substances Directive refines these requirements by means of further specific measures for pollution control and environmental quality standards.

The Water Framework Directive establishes a list of 33 priority substances and 8 other pollutants which have been shown to be of major concern for European waters. To adequately protect the aquatic environment and human health, the quality standards are expressed as maximum allowable concentration and annual average reflecting both acute and chronic effects due to short and long-term exposure.

Further information

More information on the Directive, visit:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-dangersub/pri_substances.htm#dir_prior

More details on water policy:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/index_en.htm

For current statistics on infringements in general, see:

http://ec.europa.eu/community_law/infringements/infringements_en.htm

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

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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