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Judgment of the Court (Third Chamber) of 13 November 2001.

Commission of the European Communities v United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

C-427/00 • 62000CJ0427 • ECLI:EU:C:2001:606

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Judgment of the Court (Third Chamber) of 13 November 2001.

Commission of the European Communities v United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

C-427/00 • 62000CJ0427 • ECLI:EU:C:2001:606

Cited paragraphs only

Avis juridique important

Judgment of the Court (Third Chamber) of 13 November 2001. - Commission of the European Communities v United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. - Failure by a Member State to fulfil its obligations - Quality of bathing water - Inadequate compliance with Directive 76/160/EEC. - Case C-427/00. European Court reports 2001 Page I-08535

Parties Grounds Decision on costs Operative part

Member States - Obligations - Implementation of directives - Failure to fulfil obligations not contested

(Art. 226 EC)

In Case C-427/00,

Commission of the European Communities, represented by R.B. Wainwright, acting as Agent, with an address for service in Luxembourg,

applicant,

v

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, represented by G. Amodeo, acting as Agent, and D. Wyatt QC, with an address for service in Luxembourg,

defendant,

APPLICATION for a declaration that by failing to ensure that bathing water in the United Kingdom complies with the limit values set in accordance with Article 3 of Council Directive 76/160/EEC of 8 December 1975 concerning the quality of bathing water (OJ 1976 L 31, p. 1), the United Kingdom has failed to fulfil its obligations under that Directive,

THE COURT (Third Chamber),

composed of: C. Gulmann, acting for the President of the Chamber, J.-P. Puissochet and J.N. Cunha Rodrigues (Rapporteur), Judges,

Advocate General: D. Ruiz-Jarabo Colomer,

Registrar: R. Grass,

having regard to the report of the Judge-Rapporteur,

after hearing the Opinion of the Advocate General at the sitting on 10 July 2001,

gives the following

Judgment

1 By application lodged at the Court Registry on 20 November 2000, the Commission of the European Communities brought an action under Article 226 EC for a declaration that, by failing to ensure that bathing water in the United Kingdom complies with the limit values set in accordance with Article 3 of Council Directive 76/160/EEC of 8 December 1975 concerning the quality of bathing water (OJ 1976 L 31, p. 1, hereinafter the Directive), the United Kingdom has failed to fulfil its obligations under that Directive.

2 Article 1(2)(a) of the Directive states:

For the purposes of this Directive:

(a) "bathing water" means all running or still fresh waters or parts thereof and sea water, in which:

- bathing is explicitly authorised by the competent authorities of each Member State,

or

- bathing is not prohibited and is traditionally practised by a large number of bathers.

3 Under the first paragraph of Article 3(1) of the Directive, Member States shall set, for all bathing areas or for each individual bathing area, the values applicable to bathing water for the parameters given in the Annex.

4 Article 3(2) of the Directive provides that [t]he values set pursuant to paragraph 1 may not be less stringent than those given in column I of the Annex. The Annex to the directive sets out 19 parameters and assigns mandatory limit values to most of those parameters.

5 It is clear from Article 4(1) of the Directive that Member States were required to take the necessary measures to ensure that, within 10 years following the notification of the Directive in question, the quality of bathing water conformed to the limit values set in accordance with Article 3 of that Directive.

6 Article 13 of the Directive, as amended by Council Directive 91/692/EEC of 23 December 1991 standardising and rationalising reports on the implementation of certain Directives relating to the environment (OJ 1991 L 377, p. 48), provides that every year the Member States are to send to the Commission a report on the implementation of the Directive in the year concerned. That report is to be made to the Commission before the end of the year in question.

7 The Directive was notified to the United Kingdom on 10 December 1975.

8 The United Kingdom authorities sent reports on the implementation of the Directive for the 1996 and 1997 bathing seasons to the Commission. The Commission pointed out that in the 1997 bathing season only 88.3% of the United Kingdom's bathing waters complied with the mandatory limit values specified in column I of the Annex to the Directive, the figure for the 1996 bathing season being 89.4%. Consequently, by letter of formal notice of 22 January 1999, the Commission drew the United Kingdom's attention to its failure to fulfil its obligations and requested that it submit its observations in that regard.

9 The United Kingdom Government replied by letter of 30 March 1999, stating its determination to ensure compliance with the Directive as soon as possible and indicating that work was under way to improve the quality of the bathing water concerned.

10 Since that reply did not satisfy the Commission, it sent a reasoned opinion to the United Kingdom on 28 February 2000, in which it stated that, by failing to ensure that its bathing water complied with the limit values set in accordance with Article 3 of the Directive, that Member State had failed to fulfil its obligations under that Directive and it requested the United Kingdom to take the necessary measures to comply with that reasoned opinion within two months of its notification.

11 The United Kingdom authorities replied by letter dated 14 June 2000, conceding that their compliance with the Directive's standards was not good enough. However, they stated that the failures noted in 1997 were exceptional and pointed out that the overall compliance rate had risen to 91.4% in 1999. They also pointed out that comprehensive investigations and remedial works undertaken were likely to raise the rate of compliance with the mandatory limit values to 97% before 2005.

12 The Commission nevertheless considered that the United Kingdom was continuing to fail to meet its obligations and therefore brought the present action.

13 In its defence, the United Kingdom Government argues that, since 1997, the standard of bathing water quality has improved considerably, reaching a record compliance rate of 94% for coastal waters in the year 2000. Nevertheless it recognises that the complaint raised by the Commission is well founded with respect to the bathing seasons forming the subject-matter of the present action for failure to comply with its obligations.

14 It is clear from Article 4(1) of the Directive that Member States are required to take the necessary measures to ensure that, within 10 years following its notification, the quality of bathing water conforms to the limit values set in accordance with Article 3 of that Directive. The Directive therefore requires the Member States to ensure that certain results are achieved and, apart from the derogations provided for, does not allow them to rely on particular circumstances to justify a failure to fulfil that obligation (see Case C-56/90 Commission v United Kingdom [1993] ECR I-4109, paragraphs 42 to 44, and Case C-307/98 Commission v Belgium [2000] ECR I-3933, paragraphs 48 and 49).

15 The United Kingdom authorities do not rely on any of those derogations. Furthermore, according to the evidence before the Court and not contested by the aforementioned authorities, the quality of bathing water in the United Kingdom has not been brought into compliance with the mandatory limit values set in accordance with Article 3 of the Directive within the time-limit set in the reasoned opinion.

16 It must therefore be held that, since it has not ensured that bathing water complies with the limit values set in accordance with Article 3 of the Directive, the United Kingdom has failed to fulfil its obligations under that Directive.

Costs

17 Under Article 69(2) of the Rules of Procedure, the unsuccessful party is to be ordered to pay the costs if they have been applied for in the successful party's pleadings. Since the Commission has applied for costs and the United Kingdom has been unsuccessful, the latter must be ordered to pay the costs.

On those grounds,

THE COURT (Third Chamber)

hereby:

1. Declares that, since it has not ensured that bathing water complied with the limit values set in accordance with Article 3 of Council Directive 76/160/EEC of 8 December 1975, concerning the quality of bathing water, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has failed to fulfil its obligations under that Directive.

2. Orders the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to pay the costs.

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