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2001 EN Official Journal of the European Communities C 261 E/61

As regards the possible revival of the Iron Rhine, the Commission feels that an environmental impact
assessment must be carried out, as stated in paragraph 3 on the Answer Given to Written Question
E-2381/99 pointing out that the Commission does not have to tell the Dutch Government to meet an
obligation falling upon it under a non-Community treaty. The Dutch Government stated that Articles 6(3)
and 4 of Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild
fauna and flora (3) should be applied since the former railway line crosses a special conservation area as
defined by Council Directive 79/409/EEC of 2 April 1979 on the conservation of wild birds (4). This means
that all of the special provisions of those articles must be complied with. Thus Article 6(4) stipulates that
no plan or project can be carried through unless there is no other option. That provision thus enables a
route other than the Rhine rail link to be adopted.

The matter of the existing link between Antwerp and Ruhr region in place of the Iron Rhine could not be
considered until the parties concerned have drawn up their cost/benefit analysis which takes account of the
environmental impact and of the relevant Community law.

(1) OJ C 280 E, 3.10.2000.

(2) OJ C 26 E, 26.1.2001.
(3) OJ L 206, 22.7.1992.
(4) OJ L 103, 25.4.1979.

(2001/C 261 E/063) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0199/01

by Stavros Xarchakos (PPE-DE) and Antonios Trakatellis (PPE-DE) to the Commission

(1 February 2001)

Subject: Monitoring of uranium pollution in the Rivers Strymona and Nestos

In May 1998 the Commission replied to Question H-0438/98 (1) (’Question Time’) and confirmed reports
about the pollution of the Greek Rivers Strymona and Nestos with uranium, adding that the pollution in
question was caused not by the Bulgarian nuclear plant of Kozludoy, but by earlier uranium mining
activities near these rivers.

Has the Commission been officially informed by the Greek authorities about the existence of an extensive
and reliable network for measuring uranium pollution in these rivers, what are the findings of recent tests
concerning uranium levels in the waters of these rivers and what is the precise origin of this pollution?

(1) Written answer of 12.05.1998.

Answer given by Mrs Wallström on behalf of the Commission

(6 April 2001)

Member States are required to communicate information periodically on the monitoring of the level of
radioactivity in the air, water and soil so that the Commission is kept informed of the level of radioactivity
to which the public is exposed (Article 36, Chapter III, Health and Safety of the Euratom Treaty).

Commission Recommendation (2000/473/Euratom) on the application of Article 36 of the Euratom Treaty

was adopted on 8 June 2000 (1). It requires Member States to monitor surface waters for Cs-137 and
residual beta activity. For drinking water, specific monitoring for natural radionuclides should be carried
out in compliance with Council Directive 98/83/EC of 3 November 1998 on the quality of water intended
for human consumption (2).
C 261 E/62 Official Journal of the European Communities EN 18.9.2001

All environmental radioactivity data in the Community are stored in the REM database of the Joint
Research Centre in Ispra. On the basis of this information the Commission regularly publishes an overview
of the information at Community level.

The Commission has received under Article 36 data on beta activity for the rivers Nestos and Strymona in
Greece. In view of the delay for official transmission of such data, the Greek authorities were invited to
provide the most recent information. The Commission received monthly data for the period 1996-2000,
thus confirming the continuity and comprehensiveness of the monitoring programme.

The monitoring results are given as total beta activity per unit volume (K-40 activity still needs to be
subtracted), but do not seem to indicate unusually high levels. The rivers Strymona and Nestos are
understood to flow in the vicinity of Bulgarian uranium mining areas. While there seems to have been no
uranium production in Bulgaria since 1995, it cannot be excluded that the residues of past uranium
mining still contribute to levels of natural radionuclides in these rivers.

(1) OJ L 191, 27.7.2000.

(2) OJ L 330, 5.12.1998.

(2001/C 261 E/064) WRITTEN QUESTION E-0200/01

by Alexandros Alavanos (GUE/NGL) to the Commission

(1 February 2001)

Subject: Contracts to supply natural gas from third countries

Most EU Member States have signed contracts for the supply of natural gas from third countries which
contain a take-or-pay clause. The effect of such clauses is to create prohibitive conditions for the entry of
new suppliers of fresh sources of natural gas into the deregulated energy market in Europe and frequently
to strengthen the dominant position of suppliers of natural gas. Are the above clauses compatible with the
rules of competition in the European Union? Does the Commission intend to take any action in this area?
If so, what action?

Answer given by Mr Monti on behalf of the Commission

(27 March 2001)

The Commission would first like to point out that contracts for the supply of natural gas from third
countries are usually signed by companies, rather than by the Member States themselves. However, it is
true that the role of the public authorities in this sector was often quite important prior to liberalisation.
The take-or-pay clauses contained in a number of these contracts oblige the purchaser to pay for annual
quantities of gas, whether or not they are actually taken up. However, in several cases, the take-or-pay
obligation does not cover the full annual quantity contained in the contract and the price to be paid
sometimes represents a variable percentage of the contract price. In addition, make-up and carry-forward
clauses introduce a certain degree of flexibility in the gas charges to be paid.

The Community has already given its view of take-or-pay clauses in recital 30 to Parliament and Council
Directive 98/30/EC of 22 June 1998 concerning common rules for the internal market in natural gas (the
Gas Directive). (1) It recognised that ‘long-term take-or-pay contracts are a market reality for securing
Member States’ gas supply’. Furthermore, under Community law, a company experiencing serious
economic and financial difficulties because of its take-or-pay commitments may be granted a temporary
derogation from the principle of providing access to the system for third parties, a key element of the
process of liberalising the internal market for natural gas, which is the purpose of the Directive (see