Ireland defiant over its environmental record after brush with EU

Irish environment minister Dick Roche has defended his country's record after the EU announced it would be chasing the nation up on five breaches of environmental law.

European Commissioner for the environment, Stavros Dimas, said Brussels would be initiating infringement proceedings against Ireland for not heeding a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling on protection of the ozone layer and for four other breaches concerning environmental impact assessment and noise pollution.

Meanwhile the commission has closed two cases it had launched after receiving new information from the Irish authorities.

But Mr Roche said the wave of legal proceedings did not accurately reflect Ireland's efforts to protect the environment.

"Ireland, like many EU Member States, has differences of opinion with the EU Commission on the transposition and implementation of certain EU Environmental Directives", he said.

"I'm seeking to resolve these differences amicably with the EU Commission and to avoid the need for determination of the issues involved by the European Court Of Justice.

"I fully accept that we have had some problems with the implementation of EU environmental legislation.

"However, it is wrong and unfair to argue, as some have done, that this implies a failure to take our obligations seriously.

"The reality is that there are now around 200 pieces of EU environmental legislation.

"Like every other Member State, we have had to overcome difficulties in relation to some EU Environmental Directives - but we have also been very successful in implementing others."

He said, for example, Ireland was ahead of the game on the WEEE directives, which were proving a stumbling block for eight other countries, sparking the EU's ire (see related story).

"Our record on the transposition of EU environmental Directives is among the better ones in the Union," argued Mr Roche. "Sometimes we are late; more often than not, this is because of the very extensive consultation processes in which we engage with our stakeholders.

"The partnership model has been very successful in Ireland.

He said Ireland was in the process of implementing its regulations on the control of ozone-depleting chemicals and expected to forward a report to the commission later this month.

"No ozone depleting substances are produced in Ireland," said Mr Roche.

"And the use of such substances in Ireland is low."

He said Ireland was also on top of the other alleged breaches and hoped to reassure the EU it would soon be in compliance without the need for involving the ECJ.

By Sam Bond



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