Monday

19th Feb 2018

Focus

Audit: EU should have been tougher on Baltic pollution

  • Excess nutrients trigger a process known as eutrophication. (Photo: European Court of Auditors)

The European Commission should have resorted to legal action quicker to make sure countries around the Baltic Sea improve the quality of their waste water, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) said in a report published on Tuesday (12 April).

The Baltic Sea is “one of the most polluted seas in the world”, Ville Itala, the Finnish member of the ECA told journalists on Monday.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Satellite image of the Baltic Sea, 'one of the most polluted seas in the world' (Photo: NASA)

“I go home every summer, and when you see the green algae floating, it's not the best way to start your holiday,” he said.

The Baltic Sea is full of excess nutrients, mostly phosphorus and nitrogen, which cause the rise of potentially toxic algal blooms – a process known as eutrophication.

“It's not only dirty, it's also dangerous,” added Itala, who served as an MEP between 2004 and 2012.

The sea is polluted mostly by inefficient fertiliser use on farms and poor treatment of urban waste water.

The EU has several directives in place to bring down eutrophication and the Court of Auditors – which is not a court but the EU's main audit body – looked at how they were being implemented in countries surrounding the Baltic Sea.

The auditors visited Finland, Latvia, and Poland, and sent questionnaires to Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Lithuania, and Sweden.

They found that by the end of 2012 “limited progress had been made” in the reduction of nutrients ending up in the Baltic Sea. In some cases, the input of nutrients was higher in 2012 when compared with the 1997-2003 average.

Nitrogen inputs were higher in Estonia, Finland, Lithuania and Latvia.

The auditors also noted that some of the reductions took place in areas that were less under threat.

The Court of Auditors noted that member states, who were ultimately responsible for cleaning up their waste water, did not have clearly defined programmes. But it also blamed the commission, which is supposed to check if national governments carry out what is agreed on a European level.

“The commission has been slow to take action to detect breaches and prosecute cases of non-compliance in member states,” the report said.

It said the commission should have been quicker to take action against Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland. These countries joined the EU in 2004 and were given deadlines by which to comply.

The report noted the commission only began formal talks under the so-called EU Pilot system with non-compliant countries “long after the deadlines laid down in the accession treaties”. EU Pilot talks are a procedure that takes place before a formal infringement procedure.

In defence, the commission said sometimes “alternative tools or political dialogue can be a more effective approach than infringement proceedings”, and said its approach had been “appropriate”.

Baltic Sea strategy to combat pollution and regional disconnections

The European Commission on Wednesday is set to present a strategy and action plan for the Baltic Sea region aimed at cleaning up the heavily polluted sea, interconnect power grids and transport networks, tear down trade barriers and combat trafficking and organised crime along the borders, according to two draft documents seen by EUobserver.

Trump says US could stay in Paris deal

President Donald Trump hinted that the US could 'conceivably' stay in the Paris climate change agreement, during a meeting in which Norway's PM pointed out the sales of US-made Tesla electric cars in her country.

Interview

Nordic-Baltic digital market 'no threat to EU'

'What we want do is add value on top, and do things' such as border controls and free data movement, said Norwegian state secretary Paul Chaffey about Nordic-Baltic digital cooperation.

Stakeholder

Behind the scenes of the Nordic model

The Nordic is comprised of 74 regions and, combined, is the 12th largest economy in the world. The State of the Nordic Region 2018 gives a unique look behind the scenes of the world's most integrated region.

Supported by

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  2. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  4. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  5. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  6. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  8. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  9. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name
  10. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February
  11. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  12. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”

Latest News

  1. Poland shows no sign of concessions to Commission
  2. Spain's De Guindos to be ECB vice-president
  3. Conservative 'buccaneering Brexit' narrative unrealistic
  4. MPs demand Council become more transparent
  5. Eurogroup starts process to pick new ECB chiefs
  6. 'Fact of life': some EU funding in new tech will get lost
  7. EU asks charities to explain anti-abuse measures
  8. ECB, Budget, EU elections This WEEK