Court says Holland and France in breach of directives

A European judge has recommended that Holland be found guilty of failing to properly transpose the EU directive on nitrate loading of farmland. Meanwhile, the European Court of Justice has declared France guilty of failing to adequately implement the environmental impact assessment directive.

The European Commission lodged six complaints against the Dutch ‘Minas’ system of nitrate management on farmland. Minas is used to calculate nitrate loading and movement through soil from fertiliser and manure treatment. Although it calculates nitrate losses, enabling Dutch authorities to fine farmers who exceed run-off limits, the Commission argued that Minas breaches the EU nitrate directive.

European judge Philippe Leger’s delivered his opinion that five of the six complaints should be up-held. He agreed that the Minas programme failed to set mandatory limits for the capacity of waste storage facilities on farms, nor did it specify fixed limits for the amount of fertiliser or manure that could be spread annually on land. It also failed to specify supplementary measures to be taken to ensure maximum run-off levels were not breached, particularly for sandy soils.

In its defence, the Dutch government argued that when Minas calculated how much fertiliser could be added to cultivated land, it arrived at a figure of 210kg of nitrate per hectare, identical to values set by the directive. However, Holland recognised that Minas generated a permissible amount of 300kg of nitrate per hectare for grazing land, above the directive’s limit.

In a separate verdict the European Court of Justice found France guilty of failing to fully transpose 1997 amendments to the EU directive on environmental impact assessments by the deadline of March 1999. French law still does not adequately cover framework procedures for developers or compulsory informing of the public on planning decisions, said the court. The French government argued in its defence that it had always applied the framework procedure in practice, but the court ruled the defence invalid, concluding that the law was not properly transposed.

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