Brussels distributes warnings to Baltic countries

  • 2005-07-13
  • From wire reports
TALLINN - The European Commission sent warnings to Estonia and Latvia's transport ministries to combat the level of noise pollution and to bring their regulatory base in line with Europe's.

The commission announced on July 6 it had sent its formal "reasoned opinion letters" to three countries 's Estonia, Latvia and Malta 's regarding the level of noise pollution and delays in adopting EU directives that restrict aircraft noise levels at airports.

Such a "reasoned opinion" is the last stage of action before a court appearance, according to the commission.

The letters caught Baltic officials off-guard, but they were quick to dismiss any allegations.

An official in Tallinn said that the EU directive on noise pollution from aircraft does not pertain to Estonia due to the small size of the country's airports. "According to the ministry's stance, the said directive doesn't need to be adopted because the term 'airport' contained in it refers to civil airports with more than 50,000 movements a year by civil subsonic jet aircraft. In the case of Tallinn airport that number is 25,000," Allan Kasesalu, public relations adviser to the Ministry of Economy and Communications, told the Baltic News Service.

"At the same time, various parts of that directive have been incorporated into our legislation with several different legal acts," he explained. "For instance, the Aviation Act sets out noise restrictions and some of the environmental requirements, whereas a regulation by the Ministry of Economy sets out the environmental requirements for aircraft."

In Latvia, a transport official said that the country has met the commission's requirements on curbing aviation noise pollution and the warning letter was a mistake. "It must be a mistake, we do not have any problems with noise," said Arnis Muiznieks, head of the aviation department at the Transport Ministry.

He also voiced confidence that Latvia is not at risk of legal action in the European Court of Justice. "Airplanes that do not meet the noise requirements do not fly to Riga," he said.

In the case of continued non-compliance, the commission can take the member states to the European Court of Justice, Europe's highest court, and sanctions could follow.

The directive sets out the framework by which abidance by requirements of the common market is ensured by using similar applications in the case if similar noise problems should appear.

Meanwhile, the commission said it could take legal action against Estonia and other EU members for not adapting their laws to meet EU requirements on promoting the use of biofuel.

Member states should have harmonized their national laws with the EU requirements regarding biofuels last year, according to reports.

The EU directive requires that member states must set aside 2 percent of their fuel market for biofuel, and those countries that are not abiding by this requirement would have to provide an explanation.

Estonia, Finland, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Holland, Portugal and Slovenia have yet to tell the commission whether they have brought their national laws into conformity with the directive.

Italy, Luxembourg and Slovenia have not submitted the respective report to the Commission, while the Estonian and French reports do not contain the percentage rates.

Finally, the EU last week sent letters to 11 member states, including Latvia, threatening legal action for not complying with EU regulations concerning electronic communication and telecommunications.

The European Commission representation in Latvia reported that Latvia was served the warning along with the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Spokesman Kaspars Kreics said the EU's main objections concerned the independence of the national telecommunications regulator, telephone number portability and accessibility of the European emergency service number 112.

In the past Latvia has been reproached for not ensuring portability of fixed-line and mobile telephone numbers, as well as for an existing list of subscribers, which contains information only about clients of the historical fixed-line telephone operator Lattelekom, which lost its monopoly in 2003.