industrialists and environmentalists are at loggerheads over a law being draf-ted by the European Commission (ec) which would force companies to pay for the environmental damage they cause. As per the draft law, European Union (eu) members will have to impose a strict 'polluter pays' principle on companies operating inside the eu countries.
The proposals have been strongly resisted by the industry in the eu as well as the governments of Germany, France and the uk. The industrial lobby has claimed that the proposals would put medium-sized and small enterprises under huge financial burdens. How-ever, environmentalists, supported by Netherlands, Austria, Belgium and Greece, are putting pressure on Ritt Bjerregaard, eu environment commissioner, to expedite the plans.
Most eu countries have liability laws under which companies can be sued for damaging the environment either through civil or public law suits. But Bjerregaard believes that action at the eu level was necessary because the national regimes vary widely on key points such as who is liable, what defences are available and how the burden of proof is divided.
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