From: "Focus Eco Center" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>

Citizens to foot the bill for the river polluters,

say environmental NGOs

Brussels, Belgium - The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and WWF, on
behalf of 17 national environmental organisations, have submitted a
complaint to the European Commission asking to open an infringement
procedure against eleven EU Member States for failure to correctly apply the
EU Water Framework Directive. Environmental NGOs say that if the 'polluter
pays' principle continues not to be applied, citizens will have pay the
whole bill and the main goal of the directive - good ecological status of
all European waters by 2015 - will not be achieved.

The countries concerned by the complaint are Austria, Belgium, Denmark,
Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Sweden and The

The Water Framework Directive requires EU countries to assess what
proportion of water service costs (abstraction and discharge, dams, dykes,
transfers), including environmental damage and resource loss, are paid for
by water users (households, navigation, hydropower, industry and agriculture
among others). The Directive obliges countries to adequately distribute
those costs using the "polluter pays" principle. This principle provides
essential incentives to reduce environmental damage and generate the money
required to achieve the directive's environmental objectives.

However, eleven Member States have limited the economic appraisal to public
drinking water supply and waste water treatment or collection, thus
excluding infrastructures such as dams, weirs and dykes serving hydropower,
navigation, agricultural irrigation and drainage and flood defence. This
leads to a situation where many infrastructures already identified as a
major environmental problem, will be exempted from any transparent economic
assessment and citizens, who already pay substantial water prices, could be
charged even higher prices to cover for the damage caused by businesses.

"EU leaders have committed again and again to promoting economic instruments
in order to tackle the decline of our natural resources, but they don't seem
to bother and at least correctly apply relevant laws. Most authorities
exclude water activities which are major environmental problems and often
heavily subsidised, from being defined as 'water services' and consequently
from exposing their financial and environmental costs", said Stefan Scheuer,
Policy Director at EEB.

The complaint refers to the situation of some of the last rivers with
outstanding natural value in Europe, such as Vistula in Poland; Danube in
Germany, Austria and Hungary; Elbe in Germany, Kemijoki in Finland and
Shannon in Ireland.

"It is the first time that we submit a complaint of such scale. Countries
like France and Latvia have shown that doing much better is possible, so we
expect the European Institutions to act swiftly and do everything in their
powers to ensure the correct application of the directive", added Sergey
Moroz, Water Policy Officer at WWF.

According to the EU Treaty, the European Commission can open an infringement
procedure against EU Member States following a complaint from citizens and

Hajdu Zoltán
general coordinator

Focus Eco Center


"Let me know, that at least, she will try
Then she'll be a true love of mine"

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