Bathing water: Commission starts legal action
Publication date: 06 April 2006
The European Commission has sent a first written warning to eleven Member States which have been removing bathing sites from their official lists and thereby avoiding to apply EU rules aimed at protecting the health of bathers. The Member States in question are Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. About 7,000 bathing sites in total have been affected. Removal of bathing sites from the official lists should be properly and individually explained and should not be a response to pollution problems. Explanations from the eleven Member States are currently lacking, and the Commission has therefore asked them to justify their ‘cancellation’ of previously recognised bathing sites.
From the annual bathing water reports submitted by Member States under the EU’s Bathing Water Directive (Directive 76/160/EEC), the Commission has observed that, between the early 1990s and 2004, many previously recognised bathing waters were dropped without explanation from the list of monitored bathing areas. The statistics are set out in the table below. The Directive requires Member States to monitor bathing water quality and keep bathing waters free of pollution. The Commission is concerned that some Member States have opted to close bathing sites instead of cleaning them up.
The European Court of Justice has established that so-called de-recognition or de-listing of bathing sites must be properly explained and justified - and should not be a response to water pollution (Case C-307/98, Commission v Belgium of May 2000). For this reason, the Commission has sent a first warning letter to Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal , Spain and Sweden, asking them to reinstate the bathing waters in question or provide a satisfactory explanation for their deletion.
The Commission has also raised issues about the lack of monitoring of certain bathing waters in Italy, which, although still recognised as bathing waters, are subject to bathing prohibitions. Italy has failed to monitor water quality at 244 sites, where bathing was banned during the year 2004.
Percentages and number of de-listed bathing waters up to 2004 for freshwaters and coastal waters
*Total number = listed for 2004 bathing season + all de-listed in indicated period
For more information:
- Commission website about the Bathing Water Directive
Related News Item:
- New Bathing Water Directive enters into force (24 March 2006)
- Clean bathing water - MEPs approve deal (18 January 2006)