France faces fine over nitrates pollution

The European Commission referred France to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over nitrate pollution of surface water in Brittany on 27 June 2007, amid concerns that the EU is nevertheless still supporting intensive farming in the region.

In March 2007, France was sent a final warning for non-compliance with a judgement delivered in 2001 on surface-water pollution by nitrates and had three months to take action. As no Action Plan has thus far been implemented, the Commission confirmed its decision to refer France to the Court and to ask the ECJ for a €28 million financial sanction and a €117,882 daily penalty payment.

Jean-François Piquot, from the environmental NGO Eaux et Rivières de Bretagne, does not consider this condemnation as a success and is demanding a reorientation of agricultural policy. He defines the French and European attitude as “schizophrenic”, concerning efforts to improve the environment while at the same time promoting intensive agriculture. 

France has frequently been subject to infringement procedure for non-transposition or non-implementation of EU environmental law, with ten disputes currently under investigation by the ECJ. According to a report by Strasbourg Senator and Mayor Fabiennne Keller, Brussels could be in a position to demand around €500 million from France. 

The president of the regional authority in charge of agriculture in Brittany, Jacques Jaouen, considers the condemnation an injustice: “What is the more shocking is the lack of recognition for what has been done,” he said. 

Françoise Grossetête, a French member of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee said she hoped that the European Commission will take into account the political will of the new president in any further decision. 

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