BIO/00/32, Brussels 18/02/2000 -
Returning from her fact finding mission on cyanide pollution in Romania
and Hungary, European Commissioner Margot Wallström declared:
"We have decided to create an international task force immediately to provide an independant assessment of this major environmental accident. The authorities and the local communities affected need all the help we can provide, together with local and international organisations, in analysing this accident, as well as the damages and the needs for assistance.
There are many lessons to be learned to prevent this sort of accident from happening again in Europe in the future. The Baia Mare accident, like the previous similar accident in Doñana and the recent ERIKA disaster in France, has demonstrated that we need to further tighten European legislation. We must ensure that polluters can effectively be held responsible for damages. We will also need to strengthen our civil protection capabilities."
Mrs. Wallström met with the Hungarian Foreign Minister, the Hungarian and Romanian Environment Ministers, local authorities, NGOs and citizens, as well as a representative from the company Aurul SA, from which the cyanide spill originated. She visited polluted sites in both countries.
She announced that the following seven steps will be taken:
- Creation of an international task force chaired by the European Commission
- Immediate technical assistance to Hungarian and Romanian authorities
- Evaluation of needs for financial assistance based on assessments of the damage and formulation of restoration projects
- Reinforcement of the EU's civil protection capabilities
- Extension of the ongoing Commission study on environmental hotspots in the mining industry to include the candidate countries
- Review and adaptation of existing EU legislation
- Acceleration of preparations of legislation on environmental liability
The task force will carry out an independant assessment of the accident, its impact and further assistance needs. It will have wide participation from organisations, which are active in the region.
Civil society will be invited to participate in the work, and the general public will be fully informed about the task force's findings.
Technical experts will go to Hungary and Romania to assist local experts in information and preventive action already undertaken by the authorities of the two countries.
The Commission intends to make funds available for assessment of the damages. Also, funding under the PHARE programme, and possibly other existing programmes or funds, will be envisaged.
The Commission will immediately start exploring how already existing Civil Protection networks and resources could be reinforced, to be better prepared to react to environmental accidents and disasters in the future.
The study on the mining industry will be completed by the end of this year.
Existing legislation, notably on industrial accidents, should be reviewed to cover risks relating to the mining industry.
Following adoption of the White Paper on enviromental liability on 9 February, preparation of a proposal for a Framework Directive should be speeded up to secure rapid introduction of a strict liabilty regime for environmental damage, based on the 'polluter pays' principle.
Baia Mare cyanide spill Help-line:
Telephone: +32 2 299 66 60