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European Commission - Press release

Environment: Germany warned over failure to notify legislation on water quality standards and on a strategy to protect its seas

Brussels, 16 June - The Commission is asking Germany to comply with two pieces of EU environmental legislation. Despite earlier warnings, Germany has failed to inform the Commission about the transposition of legislation on water quality standards, which should have been in place by 13 July 2010, and about a strategy to protect its seas, which should have been in place by 15 July 2010.

On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission has decided to send Germany a reasoned opinion, giving it two months to respond. If Germany fails to comply, the Commission may refer the cases to the EU Court of Justice and ask the Court to impose financial sanctions already at this stage, without having to return to the court for a second ruling.

Water quality standards

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 Germany did not notify the Commission of all the implementing measures in time, a letter of formal notice was sent on 20 September 2010 giving Germany two months to react. Since the legislation has still not been adopted, the Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion.

Marine Strategy Framework Directive

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive 2008/56/EC 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.

Member States had to notify the Commission of the adoption of this legislation by 15 July 2010. As Germany failed to do so, the Commission sent a letter of formal notice on 20 September 2010. Although progress has been made, Germany has still not complied with its legal obligations. The Commission is therefore sending a reasoned opinion, giving Germany two months to comply.

If Germany does not take appropriate action regarding these two cases within two months, the Commission may refer them to the EU Court of Justice and ask the Court to impose fines.

The timely transposition of EU legislation is a priority for the Commission. Under the new policy, in cases where Member States have failed to transpose EU legislation into national law within the required deadline, the Commission now systematically asks 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 20111.


The Priority Substances Directive refines the requirements 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). It lays down a list of 33 priority substances and 8 other pollutants which have been shown to be of major concern for European waters. The Priority Substances Directive requires Member States to meet standards based on maximum allowable concentrations and annual average concentrations for these substances, in order to adequately protect the aquatic environment and human health. The quality standards are developed to avoid both acute and chronic effects due to short and long-term exposure to these substances.

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive aims to ensure that Europe's seas achieve good environmental status by 2020. Member States must set a programme containing targets and indicators, and assess the ecological status of their marine waters and the impact of human activities, before granting them "good environmental status". This is based on 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. 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.

Further information

Further information on the Priority Substances Directive:

More details on marine environment policy:

More details on water policy:

For current statistics on infringements in general see:

See also MEMO/11/408

Contacts :

Joe Hennon (+32 2 295 35 93)

Monica Westeren (+32 2 295 06 68)

1 :

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

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