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13.2.

2001 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 46 E/5

Will the Commission say whether it is aware of the pollution of the ground water in the above regions,
what the probable consequences of concentrations of nitrates above the permitted limit are and whether
Greece has implemented Community Directive 91/676 (1) and adopted codes of sound agricultural practice
and an action programme, as required by the Directive, to prevent the nitrification of the ground water?

(1) OJ L 375, 31.12.1991, p. 1.

Answer given by Mrs Wallström on behalf of the Commission

(24 March 2000)

The Commission is aware of the pollution problems caused by agricultural nitrogen (intensive crop
growing, livestock farming) in groundwater and certain lakes, dams and closed bays (eutrophication) in
Greece. An excess of nitrates in groundwater can adversely affect childrens’ health, when they are
transformed into nitrites in well water or in the digestive system (infant cyanosis). Nitrites are also thought
to be carcinogenic when they react with the digestive juices. Nitrates, when they pass from groundwater
into surface waters and the sea, cause eutrophication (undesirable development of algae and plankton).

Greece very belatedly (1997) transposed Council Directive 91/676/EEC of 12 December 1991 concerning
the protection of waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources and has just (1999)
designated seven vulnerable zones where the groundwater is contaminated, while acknowledging that
other zones should be designated. As yet, no official action programmes have been established for any of
the designated zones.

Since 1995 a very localised programme (30 000 hectares of cotton) to reduce nitrogenous fertilisation,
approved by the Commission, has been operating in Thessaly under Council Regulation (EEC) No 2078/92
on agricultural production methods compatible with the requirements of the protection of the environ-
ment and the maintenance of the countryside (1). The results are promising, and this could inspire future
action programmes in ‘nitrate’ vulnerable zones.

The Commission, noting that the national measures implementing Directive 91/676/EEC communicated by
the Greek authorities did not conform to the Directive, decided to take the matter to the Court of Justice
on 22 December 1999. The Commission emphasised Greece’s failure to establish good codes of
agricultural practice, insufficient monitoring of the eutrophication of surface water and failure to establish
action programmes for the designated vulnerable zones.

It should also be noted that codes of good agricultural practice must be applied in both ‘nitrate’ vulnerable
zones and in zones covered by Council Regulation (EC) No 1257/1999 on support for rural development
from the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF) and amending and repealing
certain Regulations (2).

(1) OJ L 215, 30.7.1992.
(2) OJ L 160, 26.6.1999.

(2001/C 46 E/007) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0194/00
by Roberta Angelilli (UEN) to the Commission

(4 February 2000)

Subject: Community funds

Vincenzo Apicella, Chief Prosecutor of the Italian Court of Auditors, announced on 17 January 2000 in his
annual report that owing to delays, neglect and complex bureaucratic procedures, ITL 4,5 billion of
European funds were not used in Italy in 1999.
C 46 E/6 Official Journal of the European Communities EN 13.2.2001

Would the Commission state whether:

1. The above figures are accurate;

2. It intends to take any action on the matter;

3. It intends to make a move to solve the bureaucratic problems currently hampering access to the funds;

4. A comparative study of the situation in all the Member States has been carried out?

Answer given by Ms Schreyer on behalf of the Commission

(15 May 2000)

The Commission has been unable to find, in the statements made by the Public Prosecutor of the Italian
Court of Auditors, either the source or the explanation for the figures presented by the Honourable
Member. With regard to the Community Structural Funds, and in particular the European Regional
Development Fund (ERDF), the Commission has recorded no budget losses in terms of commitments and
it would point out that ‘outstanding commitments’, which appear to be the subject of the question, are
inherent in both the programming and the management of the Structural Funds.

With regard to Italy, the Commission can provide the Honourable Member with the following information
relating to budgetary commitments and payments. The outstanding commitments for the Structural Funds’
operations in Italy as per 31 December 1999 amounted to (provisional figures):

(Euro millions)

Community support frameworks:
 Objective 1 27,5
Community initiatives:
 Adapt/Employment 42,6
 Interreg 74,1
 Leader 28,1
 Urban 12,8
Total 185,1

The Commission will proceed with the commitments as soon as the appropriations are available in the
2000 budget, mainly deriving from a carryover from 1999, due to late reprogramming by Member States.

The outstanding commitments (RAL) for the Structural Funds’ operations in Italy add up to € 9 604 million
(provisional figures) as at 31 December 1999. These relate to various programming periods. The
Commission will proceed with payments in line with Italy’s request for eligible amounts. At the end of
1999 the amounts requested but unpaid totalled € 356 million, partly as a result of late reprogramming.
All eligible amounts have been paid or will be paid from appropriations carried over (from 1999 to 2000)
as well as from the 2000 budget.

The Commission is awaiting information from the Italian authorities relating to the level of their
commitments on the ground at 31 December 1999. It should be remembered that Italy has two years
(up to 31 December 2001) to complete expenditure on the basis of commitments made before that
deadline.