Nitrates Directive: Commission takes further legal action against France

The European Commission has decided to make an application to the European Court of Justice against France for non-respect of the European Union Nitrates Directive. The Commission considers that France has failed to identify nitrate-polluted or threatened waters or eutrophic waters (on which vulnerable zones are based) in accordance with the criteria set down in the Directive.

In particular, the Commission says France has failed to take enough account of those waters in respect of which agricultural inputs are not preponderant but are nonetheless significant. As a consequence, there are serious gaps in relation to metropolitan France (mainly in the north, south-west, Normandy and Ile de France) and no assessment has been finalised in relation to overseas departments.

The Directive required Member States to carry out monitoring of all important surface waters and groundwater, identify nitrate-polluted waters, and designate vulnerable zones (i.e. zones draining into nitrate-polluted or threatened waters and waters subject to eutrophication) by 20 December 1993. Action programmes for such zones were required to be established by 20 December 1995 in order to control nitrate pollution from agricultural sources.
Member States have the option of applying these action programmes throughout their territory. France has not chosen to apply the Directive throughout its territory, instead opting to designate specific vulnerable zones.

Commission legal action is underway against several other Member States for non-respect of this same key Directive.

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