ENVIRONMENT-watchers believe a turning point may be about to be
reached in the so far losing battle to clean up the European
Community's 37,000-mile coastline and render its myriad beaches
A report issued this month by the EC's executive commission says
that most of the 12 member nations are stepping up their
Commission officials say that if the current campaign can be
sustained, the tide of pollution could be turned back in 20 to 30
In most such cases it will be because local effort, backed up by
heavy pressure from environmental officials in Brussels, the EC
headquarters, has banished the contaminates that used to pollute the
water and taint the sand in otherwise delightful seaside resorts.
Carlo Ripa di Meana, the EC environment commissioner, on July 9
published a report containing figures showing that about one-third
of Europe's beaches still fail to meet standards laid down by a 1975
But as millions of Europeans head for the seaside to swim and
soak up the summer sun, there are indications that progress is now
This year more than over 120 million vacationers - twice as many
as 20 years ago - are expected to descend on Mediterranean shores
At some beaches the tourists will notice that last year's signs
warning against swimming have been replaced by new ones displaying a
blue flag symbol, signifying that the beach is considered safe for
Last year in Spain, 178 of 1,095 beaches analyzed for pollution
infringed EC minimum standards, and 214 came close to being
In Italy there is disagreement about which beaches are safe and
which are not. The Ministry of Health claims 90 percent of beaches
are pollution-free. The country's independent Environment League
says the figure is under 60 percent.
Officials near Nice in southern France last year received
complaints from bathers who had found hypodermic syringes in
the sand. The officials say at least some of syringes were discarded
by drug addicts.
France claims that 80 percent of its beaches meet EC standards.
Local beach users are able to use Minital, a telephone information
service, to discover the state of beaches day by day.
To keep up the momentum in the drive against seaside pollution,
the EC is using a "carrot and stick" approach.
The carrot is cash grants to countries with serious seaside
pollution problems. The stick is legal action against EC countries
which have failed to implement the 1975 directive.
At present Brussels is taking action in the European Court of
Justice to try to force 11 of the 12 EC countries to conform with
the agreed standards. …