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      At  the  proposal  of  Mr  Paleokrassas,  Member  of  the   Commission
      responsible  for  environment policy, the Commission today  adopted  a
      communication  on repairing damage to the environment.  This  document
      considers  a  number  of  issues relating  to  the  various  types  of
      liability  and their limits, the definition of  environmental  damage,
      the  ways  of  making good the damage and  the  appropriate  financial
      solutions  (clean-up  costs  to be borne  by  polluters,  insurers  or
      compensation funds).
      The  issues raised reflect the experience of the Member  States,  non-
      member  countries and the work of international organizations such  as
      the  Council  of  Europe, which has drawn up  a  draft  Convention  on
      liability  for environmental damage.  This Green Paper is intended  to
      stimulate  wide-ranging  discussions  in  all  interested  circles  on
      suitable  remedies for environmental damage and how to cover the  cost
      of restoring the environment after it has been damaged.

   Public  opinion in the Community is increasingly aware of the  damage  to
   the  environment caused by major natural disasters or, more  insidiously,
   by  the  gradual impairment of the environment from a build-up  of  minor
   occurrences  of pollution.  This growth in awareness is reflected in  the
   action of support groups which mobilize to provide first-aid to flora and
   fauna when a disaster occurs and in public campaigning to obtain  redress
   in the wake of recent accidents.

   It  is  worth  defining  Community  principles  of  civil  liability  for
   environmental  damage  since  pollution  is  no  respecter  of   national
   boundaries and Member States have been establishing different regulations
   in  this  field  which could distort competition and  hamper  the  smooth
   operation of the single market.

   A  Community  system of civil liability for  environmental  damage  would
   adopt  the  principle by which an individual must repair  the  damage  he
   causes.  This legal principle is closely linked to what have been the two
   fundamental principles of European environment policy since the  adoption
   of the Single Act, namely prevention and the "polluter pays" principle.

   
   1  COM(93) 47.

   After  setting out the problems of implementing a  fault-based  liability
   regime,  the communication looks at a no-fault (strict) liability  system
   because of the difficulty of defining criteria of fault and  establishing
   proof of fault.  For this reason the communication states that  "no-fault
   liability  would  appear  suitable  for  the  specific  requirements   of
   repairing environmental damage".  There are cases, however, where even  a
   no-fault system is of no use in attaching liability, for example when  it
   is  impossible  to  establish a link between the damage  caused  and  the
   person responsible.

   For  this reason the communication envisages a dual system based, on  the
   one  hand,  on  strict  (no-fault) liability and,  on  the  other,  on  a
   compensation mechanism where no liable party can be found.

   No-fault liability
   Strict liability may encourage operators to increase preventive  measures
   while  providing firms subject to that regime with a more  certain  legal
   environment.  But a no-fault liability regime may only be established  if
   fundamental  questions  concerning  its  smooth  operation  are   tackled
   beforehand,  such  as the definition of damage, liable  parties  and  the
   activities  covered.  The  Commission  thinks that one  approach  to  the
   problems  described  in the communication could be for the  Community  to
   adopt  the  approach  followed in the Council  of  Europe  communication,
   although the latter does leave a number of issues unresolved.

   System of compensation
   If damage cannot be attributed to the activities of a liable party, joint
   compensation mechanisms could be set up.  The cost could be shared  among
   several economic sectors.

   This  gives some indication of the Commission's thinking on this  matter,
   with its emphasis on the need to involve all parties in the discussions.

   Written  comments  on this text should reach the Commission  by  October.
   The   Commission  will  then  be  holding  a  public  hearing  in   close
   collaboration  with  the  European Parliament and a  conference  on  this
   subject.

   P.S. A  video dossier on the environment is available in the  Audiovisual
        Service of DG X.

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