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Huge environmental challenge for new EU member states

Oct 08, 2004

Bringing the ten new EU member states into line with EU environmental law presents “serious problems” and a “real challenge”, the European Commission’s head of environmental legal enforcement said last night. Georges Kremlis, whose remit extended from 15 to 25 countries earlier this year, was speaking to members of the UK Environmental Law Association in London (see notes).

He said there were currently 561 pieces of binding environmental legislation, including over 200 main directives, which the new members had to comply with. These include waste water treatment, drinking and bathing water quality, air quality and waste.

New member states were supposed to transpose EU laws into their own national laws by the time they joined last May. Notifications for failing to implement EU laws properly are expected to increase substantially and the Commission’s Legal Implementation and Enforcement Unit in Brussels expect a 40% increase in the number of complaints.

Some of the legislation could take up to 11 years to transpose in the new members states because it involves building costly infrastructure. It is estimated that this will cost 50 – 80 billion Euros, or 2-3% of GDP in the new member states.

Targets for some directives – including Large Combustion Plants, Packaging, Drinking Water and Landfill – have been extended to 2015. This should be seen against a patchy level of compliance across the 15 existing members – there are, for example, 9,000 illegal landfills in France and 4,000 in Italy.

Mr Kremlis named the five most problematic sectors across the EU 25 members as: waste, water, nature conservation, air and environmental impact assessment. There are 1,395 current cases of non compliance across the EC.

In future Mr Kremlis wants to see complaint handling mechanisms set up in the member states rather than just in Brussels so they can be handled locally. He also felt the EC should be more proactive in helping new member states comply with their obligations. There would be a changing emphasis, with less new environmental legislation and more focus on refining and properly implementing what is already in place.

He welcomed the idea of an environmental court: “you would have the legal and technical expertise you need in such a court as environmental cases are the most complicated.”

Notes to the editors:

UKELA is the UK forum, which aims to make the law work for a better environment and to improve understanding and awareness of environmental law. UKELA’s members are involved in the practice, study or formulation of environmental law in the UK and the European Union. It attracts both lawyers and non lawyers and has a broad membership.
2. The title of the lecture on October 7th was “The challenge of the implementation of the environmental acquis communautaire in the new member states”. It was held at the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn. The event was sponsored by the law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Landmark.

Vicki Elcoate
UKELA Executive Officer
01306 501320

UK Environmental Law Association - Better law for the environment
Registered charity 299498; company registered in England number 2133283
Registered office: One Glass Wharf, Bristol, BS2 0ZX

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