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Parliamentary questions
4 April 2007
Answer given by Mr Dimas on behalf of the Commission

The Commission first dealt with the diversion of the River Acheloos in the frame of the Integrated Mediterranean Programmes (IMPs) in 1985-1987. At that time the Greek authorities were requested to proceed with an ad hoc application of Council Directive 85/337/EEC of 27 June 1985 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment (1). Any financing of parts of the project was to be conditional upon the respecting of the terms of the environmental impact assessment study.

Following several protests, formal complaints, petitions and question at Parliament as well as rulings of the Greek Supreme Court against authorisations of the project, the Commission looked in depth at this question with a view to taking a decision about possible continuation of co-financing in the frame of the Structural Funds. As a result, when the Greek authorities submitted an Operational Programme ‘ACHELOOS’ in the frame of the 1994-1999 programming period [2nd Community support framework (CSF)] in April 1994, the Commission introduced several additional conditions. The Greek authorities decided finally to withdraw this Operational Programme from the 1994-1999 CSF for Greece.

The Commission assessed the compatibility of the Acheloos project with EC environmental legislation in the context of a complaint received in 1998. According to the established case law of the European Court of Justice(2), as the application for authorisation of this project was formally lodged before the expiry of the time limit for transposition, the project is not subject to the requirements of Council Directive 85/337/EEC referred to above, or Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora(3). Nevertheless, following several judgments of the Greek Supreme Court, the Greek authorities submitted the project to the environmental assessments foreseen in those Directives. Consequently, the Commission has closed the complaint, as no breach of EC legislation was established. It should be stressed that for the same reason the Acheloos project is not subject to Directive 2001/42/EC of Parliament and of the Council of 27 June 2001 on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment(4). Provided no changes have been introduced compared with the original project, it is still not subject to the procedures in Directives 2001/42/EC and 85/337/EEC.

Since the abovementioned withdrawal of the Acheloos Operational Programme, the Commission is not aware that such a project has been approved neither has it received any request for co-financing in the framework of the 3rd Community support framework. Consequently, the viability of the project cannot be assessed by its services since it does not dispose of the necessary documentation including the cost benefit analysis, the environmental impact assessement and its environmental terms.

Regarding Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the 2003 reform introduced a strong market orientation into the policy, aiming to boost competitiveness and ensure high environmental and quality standards for agricultural production.

This new orientation has been achieved by breaking the link between production and direct payment support (i.e. decoupling), and making the granting of the new Single Payment subject to compliance with a range of statutory EU standards and the maintenance of the land in good agricultural and environmental condition. This means that most of the support formerly granted to specific sectors is now given directly to the farmer as an income payment. Thus, in relation to the crops cultivated in Western Greece, a farmer's decision to continue cultivating a crop or not will depend both on economic considerations and on the degree of compliance with basic environmental standards. Any infrastructural investment made, which depends on projection of the likely cropping patterns for a given area, should take this into account.

Under the current rules for Rural Development programmes, the Commission is prepared to co-finance cultivation practices, which serve to protect and ensure the sustainable development of natural resources, given the following two main conditions: first, the Member State provides for funding to match the Community funds. Second, those practices must go beyond statutory EU standards and the maintenance of the land in good agricultural and environmental conditions.

As regards the question on water resources management, the Water Framework Directive (WFD)(5), published in December 2000, establishes the need for detailed planning on the use of water resources to avoid non-sustainable solutions and irreversible damages to the environment, through the development of River Basin Management Plans (RBMP). The WFD requires the first set of such plans to be published by December 2009. From 2009 onwards, any plan or programme that has an impact on water resources or water quality will have to be coordinated with the RBMP provisions, so that the WFD environmental objectives can be achieved. The WFD does not exclude water transfers between basins, but its principles for sustainable water management are firmly based on achieving an efficient water use through demand management measures, the use of economic instruments based on the principles of recovery of costs and polluter pays, and a transparent framework for decision making that encourages the active participation of all stakeholders and the public.

One of the key WFD environmental objectives is the obligation to prevent deterioration of the status of the water bodies. In case of new projects, WFD Article 4 paragraph 7 applies, allowing surface water status deterioration, provided certain conditions are met. It is for the Greek authorities to ensure that these conditions and all other environmental legislation are respected in such cases.

(1)OJ L 175, 5.7.1985.
(2)See for instance the judgment of 23 March 2006, Commission/Austria, Case C‑209/04.
(3)OJ L 206, 22.7.1992.
(4)OJ L 197, 21.7.2001.
(5)Directive 2000/60/EC of Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action In the field of water Policy, OJ L 327, 22.12.2000.

OJ C 293, 05/12/2007
Laatst bijgewerkt op: 12 juni 2007Juridische mededeling