More bathing bans at Italian beaches than anywhere in Europe
The quality of bathing waters at European beaches, both inland and at the seaside, have improved steadily over recent years.
As of last year, a full 96 percent of coastal beaches met EU minimum standards and 90 percent of beaches next to rivers and lakes, according to the latest annual "bathing water report" from the European Commission.
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This is up from an 80 percent compliance rate for seasides in 1990 and 52 percent for inland waters.
"Over the last 30 years, EU and national legislation has significantly improved the quality of Europe's bathing waters but our work does not end here," said environment commissioner Janez Potocnik upon the report's publication on Thursday (10 June).
"Despite our decade-long track record of high quality, we need to keep up the effort constantly to both improve and maintain what we have achieved."
Almost all the seaside beaches in Cyprus, France, Greece and Portugal complied with the EU's tougher "guide values."
However, some two percent of coastal bathing sites had to be banned in 2009 and most of these were in one member state - Italy.
Additionally, just 46.4 percent of Italian inland bathing sites met the EU's minimum quality levels last year, down 19.4 percent from 2008.
The findings prompted the commissioner to suggest he would not go swimming in the country.
"Italy has work to do," he said. "I don't know about the discrepancies, but I'm swimming on the other side."
Freshwater bathing sites showed greater variation in their water quality, according to the commission, but the best lakeside or riverside places to swim are in Finland, France, Germany and Sweden.