The Commission brought action under Article 226 EC for a declaration that Netherlands had failed to fulfill its obligations under Community law.
The compliant was that Netherlands had failed to fulfill, within the periods prescribed by Council Directive 76/160/EEC of 8 December 1975 concerning the Quality of Bathing Water, its obligations under Articles 4 (1) and 6 (1) of that Directive.
The aim of the Directive was to protect the environment and public health by measures to reduce the pollution of bathing water including freshwater and seawater.
The Commission expressed the view that the Netherlands had failed to carry out sampling operations in accordance with the minimum sampling frequencies laid down in the annex to the Directive. Secondly, in breach of Article 4(1) of the Directive, it had failed to adopt the measures needed to ensure that, within 10 years of notification of the Directive, the quality of bathing water complied with the limit values.
As regards the poor quality of bathing waters, the Commission argued that, according to the case-law of the Court of Justice, Article 4(1) of the Directive was not to be understood as meaning that the Member States needed only endeavour to adopt all reasonably feasible measures. On the contrary, that provision imposed upon Member States an obligation to achieve a particular result, requiring them to do whatever was necessary to ensure that the quality of bathing water within their territory actually conformed to the limit values by no later than 10 years after notification of the Directive.
The Netherlands Government replied that national legislation had been amended in line with the Directive and the situation had improved appropriately. The Commission was not satisfied.
The court held that given that the Directive had not been implemented within the periods prescribed therein, the Commission’s action had to be held to be well founded. By failing to fulfill its obligations as regards the quality of bathing water and the frequency of sampling within the periods prescribed by Council Directive 76/160/EEC the Netherlands had failed to fulfill its obligations under Articles 4 (1) and 6 (1) of that directive.