EC warns Greece over Koroneia

The European Commission (EC) yesterday sent a letter of warning to Greece, the last step before legal action, over the escalating pollution of Lake Koroneia in northern Greece. According to the Ecologist Greens, a team of EC inspectors who visited the European Union-protected wetland were «dissatisfied» with what they saw. The inspectors also visited the Mavrorachi landfill near Thessaloniki, which locals have been blockading on and off over the past few months, claiming that it has become a dump site for toxic hospital waste. But it was the state of the lake and its banks that upset the officials. The EC’s letter reportedly takes issue with the thousands of illegal water bores, believed to have been created by farmers, and the heavy pollution of the lake’s water and banks with the toxic waste of local industries. The letter also reminds Greek authorities that EU legislation obliges them to protect the wetland and expresses concern about the nonabsorption of EU funding for environmental projects. However the head of the local organization set up to manage the Koroneia and Volvi lakes told Kathimerini that he expects the EC to approve a requested extension until 2010 for the implementation of measures demanded by the EC. Savvas Anastasiadis said a project aimed at restoring Lake Koroneia was well under way. Other local sources told Kathimerini that the Agricultural Development Ministry has not released funds that were destined to be used to close down illegal water bores. The Ecologist Greens said in a statement that any progress that has been made by local authorities has been too little too late. «The progress in implementing protective measures has proven to be extremely slow… and as a result the Commission has sent this warning to Greece,» the statement said.