Despite 7,500 million ECU being earmarked for water quality, as part of the EU’s ‘rigorous environmental protection policy’, there is a general possibility that the goals of the Community’s 5th action plan for the environment will not be achieved, says the 21st annual report of the European Court of Auditors.

In its Special report on this subject, the Court observed that there were problems with the incorporation of the directives on water into national law; these problems had been exacerbated by inconsistencies in terminology and the lack of standardised specialised data and suitable indicators.

As regards water pollution from agricultural sources, “effective implementation of the nitrates directive was held back by bad agricultural practices and inconsistent Community funding”, says the report.

The auditors also found that the Commission “did not take sufficient account of the problem of including charges in capital funding and operating costs of sewage plants and thus did not succeed in giving appropriate price signals as an incentive to preventing pollution”.

Renewable energy

In the area of renewable sources of energy the Court concluded that it was impossible to evaluate the success or failure of the programmes concerning the main renewable energy sources ( the Joule-Thermie and Altener programmes), as their “overall objectives were insufficiently precise”. It also criticised many of the Thermie projects as “lacking a major innovative aspect”.

The Court recommended that the number of audits carried out at contractors should be increased, since currently “proper scientific and financial management, monitoring and control of all projects is not guaranteed”. Finally it stressed the need to improve co-ordination between all the Commission departments involved in the financing of renewable energy measures.

The full report can be viewed from the ECA website.

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