Going swimmingly at beaches

Only Lithuania and Cyprus can boast cleaner beaches than Greece, according to the annual results of the European Commission and the European Environment Agency’s (EEA) report on the quality of bathing water in member states. The survey, which was published yesterday, indicated that 97.7 percent of the Greek beaches that were inspected in 2008 met with EU standards as far as the cleanliness of the water where people swim is concerned. In Cyprus, 98.2 percent of the beaches examined were given full marks. In Lithuania, not a single beach failed the test, although only 18 beaches were visited by inspectors. In contrast, more than 2,000 beaches in Greece were tested. Only Italy, where almost 5,000 are monitored, exceeded this number. Bathing waters are examined against a number of physical, chemical and microbiological parameters in order to test their quality. According to the report, 96 percent of beaches in Europe meet the minimum standards for water quality. In 2006, stricter regulations for the cleanliness of bathing water were introduced. European Union member states have to meet these by 2015. Greece is one of 12 countries to have already done so. The annual tests carried out by the EEA have seen the quality of water in which people swim improve substantially since 1990, when checks were first carried out. The number of beaches tested has also increased. In 1990, only 683 beaches in Greece were inspected, compared to 2,088 last year. The results of the EEA’s survey are a further confirmation of the standard of Greek beaches, coming just two weeks after Greece retained its second place to Spain in another international ranking of Europe’s cleanest beaches. According to results published late last month by the Denmark-based Foundation for Environmental Education, a nongovernmental group which operates the Blue Flag scheme, Greece has 425 prime beaches, down from 430 last year.