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EU countries fall short in implementing environmental laws

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EU countries fall short in implementing environmental laws

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(BRUSSELS) - States are falling short in implementing EU environmental laws in areas such as waste management, air quality and water management, the EU Commission said on Monday.

The EU executive was unveiling the Environmental Implementation Review (EIR), a new tool meant to help Member States improve the implementation of European environmental policy and commonly agreed rules.

Stand-out findings in the review are concerns about air quality, finding problems in 23 out of 28 Member States. And air quality standards in some 130 European cities are falling below standard.

Countries are missing out on opportunities, says the Commission. Full implementation of EU environment legislation could save the EU economy EUR 50 billion every year in health costs and direct costs to the environment.

The aim of the review is to provide the information, the tools and the timetable to help Member States ensure high standards for the quality of their citizens' air, water and waste management, according to the Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella: "Patchy and uneven implementation of environmental rules helps no one", he said. "Improving how environmental laws are applied benefits citizens, public administrations and the economy."

EU environmental policy is an area which receives broad support from European citizens: 3 out of 4 citizens consider European laws necessary to protect the environment in their country, while 4 out of 5 agree that European institutions should be able to check whether the laws are being correctly applied.

The EIR package includes 28 country reports which map national strengths, opportunities and weaknesses; a Communication summarising the political conclusions of the country reports and examining common trends, in areas such as air quality, waste management and the circular economy, water quality and protecting nature and biodiversity; and recommendations for improvements to all Member States.

The Review shows that in the area of waste management, waste prevention remains an important challenge for all Member States, while six have not managed to limit the landfilling of biodegradable municipal waste. Full compliance with EU waste policy by 2020 could create additional 400,000 jobs.

Despite many local success stories in nature and biodiversity, the implementation of EU nature legislation needs to be stepped up, as confirmed by the EU Fitness Check of the Birds and Habitats Directives. Otherwise biodiversity loss will continue in the EU, compromising the capacity of ecosystems to provide for human needs in the future.

In 23 out of 28 Member States, air quality standards are still exceeded – in total in over more than 130 cities across Europe. Transport is a main source for air quality problems. Action on reducing environmental noise, the second-worst environmental cause of ill health, should also be increased.

In water quality and management, most Member States struggle to reach full compliance on collection and treatment of urban waste water, and 13 face EU legal action. Nitrates concentrations and eutrophication levels remain a serious issue in nearly all Member States.

There are a number of root causes common to several Member States, says the review: ineffective coordination between administrative levels, insufficient capacity, and lack of knowledge and data.

Communication and Annex: "The EU Environmental Implementation Review: Common challenges and how to combine efforts to deliver better results"

Factsheets: 28 Country reports

Environmental Implementation Review website

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