BRUSSELS – As temperatures soared across the continent yesterday, the European Union head office said that while the quality of the EU’s coastal bathing waters has steadily improved over the last decade, it fell slightly in recent years. Shining exceptions to that were Greece and the Netherlands, whose coastal bathing waters fully met European Union quality norms in 2002, the European Commission reported. «With a 100 percent compliance rate, the Netherlands displays the EU’s best coastal water bathing quality,» EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said in her annual report on the state of waters off sea and inland beaches across the 15-nation EU. Greek coastal waters posted near-100 percent compliance, while the country’s four inland bathing areas fully met EU norms. For the EU as a whole Wallstrom’s 2002 report card was a mixed bag, with Germany, Belgium and France scoring low on the quality of bathing waters. «The real story is about a significant improvement in the quality of bathing water over the last 10 years,» she told a news conference. «We are not in a perfect situation, but we are making progress.» In 2002, there was an overall decline in bathing water quality compared to 2001, her report said. It said 95.8 percent of EU coastal regions and 91.1 percent of freshwater bathing areas met EU safety standards in 2002. The corresponding 2001 rates were 97 percent and 93 percent respectively, said the study that reviewed 13,627 beaches and 5,773 freshwater areas such as lakes and rivers. Europe’s most popular beach holiday destinations, including Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal, all scored higher than 96 percent compliance rates for 2002.