Punished for good

Published: Wednesday 15 November 2000

the European Commission ( ec ) has decided to file a case against Germany, Luxembourg, Ireland, Belgium, Portugal and Austria in the European Court of Justice. ec would be doing so because these countries have failed to legislate laws for avoiding and limiting the consequences of major accidents involving dangerous substances. The deadline for legislating the laws was February 1999.

The member states of the commission complying with the Major Accident Hazards Directive, are obliged to prepare major accident prevention policy for controlling and containing accidents in order to minimise their effect on people and the environment. The directive also stipulates that companies of the member states, dealing with dangerous substances, should inform the authorities concerned and the common people about their inputs and products. According to the officials of the commission, Luxembourg, Ireland and Portugal have failed to legislate laws regarding the issue, whereas Germany, Belgium and Austria have adopted incomplete legislation.

"Experience tells us we need to be very active in avoiding major industrial accidents," says Margot Wallstrm, the environment commissioner of ec . According to the commission, the decision to prosecute these countries is a evidence of ec 's determination to evolve a foolproof mechanism for preventing and curbing the impact of major accidents involving dangerous substances, such as India's Bhopal gas tragedy. "The directive is extremely complex and requires coordination among a number of departments. This has led to the delay," said Tom Kitt, Ireland's minister for labour affairs.

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