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Brussels, 27 January 2011

Environment: Estonia, Greece, Finland and Malta warned over failures to protect their seas

The Commission is asking Estonia, Greece, Finland and Malta to comply with EU legislation requiring them to draw up marine strategies to protect their seas. These countries have failed to inform the Commission about the transposition of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, which should have been in place by 15 July 2010. The Commission's request, sent on the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, takes the form of a reasoned opinion under the EU infringement procedures. If the countries concerned fail to inform the Commission within two months of the measures taken to transpose the relevant EU legislation, the Commission could refer the cases to the European Court of Justice.

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, with 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, which aims to ensure that Europe's seas achieve good environmental status by 2020. The directive requires Member States 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 probability of that good status being achieved within the deadline, 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 determining the "good environmental status" of these waters on the basis of criteria related to biodiversity, the presence of non-indigenous species, fish stock health, the food chain, eutrophication, changes in hydrographic conditions and concentrations of contaminants, the amount of 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.

Further information

For current statistics on infringements in general:

More details on marine environment policy:


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