DOC - Europa

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IP/00/1471
Brussels, 15 December 2000
Commission welcomes the Baia Mare Task Force
report
"When I created the Task Force I gave them three main tasks. Find out what
happened, why and what should be done to reduce the risks for the future.
With this report they've fulfilled my demand and we have a clear and concise
document which will be accessible to all." With these words Environment
Commissioner Margot Wallström today welcomed the release of the final
report from the independent International Task Force for Assessing the Baia
Mare Accident. She congratulated its Chairman Tom Garvey for having
produced an objective analysis with concrete recommendations that gained
the consensus of the whole group.
In the aftermath of the accident in the Baia Mare mine in Romania, the Commission
undertook a thorough review of EU environmental regulations and how they relate to
mining activities. As a result, a programme of action was drawn up and outlined in
the recent Communication on safe operation of mining activities (see IP/00/1236, 30
October 2000). Three priority actions are intended, relating to industrial risk
management, management of mining waste and integrated pollution prevention and
control. Commissioner Wallström welcomed the endorsement of the general
Commission approach stating, "with the support of the Baia Mare Task Force report
I am encouraged to move ahead with our proposals." The Commission is revising
the Seveso II Directive (96/82/EC) to present a proposal by mid-2001. A BAT
reference document (BREF) under the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control
(IPPC) Directive (96/61/EC) is being prepared on the Best Available Techniques to
reduce everyday pollution and to prevent or mitigate accidents in the non-ferrous
metals mining sector.
The Commissioner stressed that primary responsibility for avoiding environmental
disasters lies with the industries operating the installations. The Commission is
pushing ahead with its plans to introduce a strict liability regime for environmental
damage based on the polluter pays principle. It is intended to adopt a legislative
proposal next year.
The accident once again drew attention to the importance of a culture of public
information. She noted that whilst immediate measures to save lives had been
effective, in the subsequent follow-up citizens had felt that they were not being kept
informed. She remarked that: "there is the need to further embrace a culture of
openness, transparency and participation in this region. Had citizens felt that they
were receiving objective information in the aftermath of the accident then much of the
distress, confusion and economic hardship might have been reduced."
Finally the Commissioner used the occasion to reassure observers on the
implications for enlargement of the EU. She stressed that she will continue to place
top priority on environmental protection in the enlargement process. "Our citizens
demand that enlargement should contribute to an improvement of environmental
standards in Europe, both in present and future Member States. Not that our
standards should fall. We will not let them down."
Background information on the setting up of the Baia Mare Task Force can be found
on the Europa Web-Site at http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/enlarg/home.htm
The final Task force report can also be found on this site from 15th December.
Background:
The Baia Mare Task force was set up by the European Commission in the aftermath
of the cyanide spill from a gold mine in Baia Mare in Romania in January 2000
polluting the rivers Tisa and Danube.
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