To the Commission of the European Communities      
Directorate General XI
Brussels, Belgium

From MEP Heidi Hautala


Addresses: http://www.vihrealiitto.fi/~hautala hhautala@europarl.eu.int     heidi.hautala@vihrealiitto.fi

I Requirements:

I ask the Commission to open a complaint on the grounds of the Treaty of Rome, article 169, concerning the failure of Finland as a Member State to implement in its political decision-making of the Vuotos project the following community legislation: the so called Birds Directive (79/409/EEC) and the Habitat Directive (92/43/EEC). The Commission should accordingly see to that Finland will as quickly as possibie take the necessary measures to correct the situation.

I ask for an accelerated procedure because preparations for the construction have already begun e.g. by deforestation in valuable areas in a situation in which there is no decision by the Water Court on the project, thus undermining the natural value of the area.

II Grounds for the complaint:

The Finnish Government has let the Vuotos project to proceed in the Water Court without taking into account the implementation of Directives 79/409/EEC and 92/43/EEC. The Finnish Water Act eliminates damage to environment and nature in the process of comparison of interests by financial compensations by the project applicant to those directly affected by the project. The process in the Water Court thus endangers a proper implementation of Community law on environment and nature protection.

III Description of the case

For over 30 years harnessing of the upper part of the river Kemijoki in Lapland has been planned by Power Company Kemijoki Ltd. This has caused uncertainity to the local population and damaged severely their livelihood.

In 1982 the Government of Finland decided to cancel the plan to build the so called Vuotos reservoir, an artificial lake of 240 km2 which would be used for electricity production. The decision was motivated by the economic unviability and its harmful effects on the environment. Afterwards, the Parliament decided on substantial funding for stimulating the local economy.

However, a later Government in 1992 decided to let Power Company Kemijoki Ltd., of which the State of Finland is a majority owner, apply for the permission from the Water Court. The decision of the Water Court is expected to be taken during 1997. At present, the Government of Finland is preparing a political decision on whether to go on or to cancel the application.

Ali Finnish Environment Ministers, regardiess of their party affiliation, have opposed the project.

During the ongoing process in the Water Court the present Government in the spring 1995 decided in its political platform to once more evaluate the preconditions of the reservoir in the light of the latest environmental studies.

The Ministry of Environment was left in minority in the working party,

which made the new evaluation for the Government. The working party was chaired by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

According to the Ministry, relevant new information concerning the environmental impact of the planned reservoir was acquired during the work.

The Ministry of Environment states that the project violates among other the aims of the EU nature protection directives and the UN Convention on Biodiversity. 36 species endangered in Finland and 11 species highly endangered or endangered in the region had been found in the area.

Other effects listed by the Ministry of Environment include the following; the reservoir would:

- cause significant losses on biodiversity by drowning an area of approximately 240 km2 , where the nature is according to lates studies exceptionally rich and diverse.

- cause important and geographically vast damages to the quality and usability of the waters in the area and would most likely put into question the agreed targets for cutting down effluent emissions to the North Sea. The drinking water resources would be made unusable as well.

- destroy the use of the area for purposes of local economies such as berry and mushroom picking and hunting. It would make more difficult other traditional economies based on reindeer keeping, forestry and fishing.

- destroy very valuable cultural heritage including some archeologically important sites.

- Artificial reservoirs have been also proved to produce gases attributing to the climate change.

According to research by the University of Oulu, 53 000 pairs of 125 bird species breed in the area. Twenty-two of these are included in Annex I of the Birds Directive including those proposed to be added to the Annex by the new Member States of 1 January 1995. An NGO, Birdlife Finland, has stated that this data implies that the planned project is a violation of the Birds Directive.

According to the Finnish Water Act, the Water Court does not base its decision on economic feasibility nor environmental impact of the project presented. The damage to environment can be compensated to those affected, and thus eliminated in the legal process of comparison of interests. Power Company Kemijoki Ltd. has already paid compensations to local municipalities. Thus, the relevant EU legistation will not necessarily be implemented.

The latest environmental assessment studies clearly show, that the environmental impact of the planned project is much more important than earlier merely predicted. According to the Ministry of Environment, in the latest report from the working group for the Government, the economic and energy political reasoning is insufficient and unclear and no socio-economic cost-benefit analysis has been conducted. In addition, the Water Court does not deliver an opinion on whether the Vuotos project is well reasoned from the point of view of energy and environment policy nor whether it is (socio-) economically viable,

It is indeed difficult to argue that the reservoir would be required by any general interest. The Government Institute for Economic Research (VATT) has conducted in 1992 (revised in 1995) a study on the socio-economic cost-benefit analysis of the Vuotos project. The study included an analysis on energy-economic profitability accompanied by social (including employment) and other local benefits/costs. The net social benefit was negative in a situation when environmental costs of the project were not taken into account.

 Helsinki, 21 November 1995 

Heidi Hautala, MEP

Pohjoisesplanadi 31
00100 Helsinki, Finland

tel +358 - 0 - 667 921
tel 02-284 5446
fax +358 - 0 ~ 667 923
GSM 050 - 600 76


Research on the nature of the planned Vuotos reservoir area, parts A - M, University of Oulu, 1995.

Statement by professor Rauno Ruuhijärvi, Helsinki University, on the natural values of the Vuotos area, done for the working party of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, 1995.

The minority opinion of the Ministry of Environment to the report of the working party of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, 1995.

Statements by Birdlife Finland, 31. October and 20. November, 1995.

Study on the economic and social cost-benefit analysis of the Vuotos project, Government Institute for Economic Research (VATT), 1992 (revised in 1995).

1999-07-15 DN: IP/99/514

"Special protection areas for Wild Birds: Commission moves against Germany, Italy, Portugal, Austria, Finland and Spain"
"...As regards Finland... Apart from being late (the deadline expired on 1 January 1995), the proposed Finnish designations are incomplete, omitting the important IBA "Kemihaaran suot" (Vuotos area). The Commission has therefore decided to make an application to the Court under Article 226."

The latest situation:


The services of the Commission are well informed about the Vuotos artificial lake and power plan project. This information indicates that the project may significantly deteriorate the habitats and disturb the bird species under Council Directive 79/409/EEC occuring in the mires of Kemihaara. Therefore, the Commission is concerned about the construction permit granted to the project on 29 February 2000. At present, the services of the Commission are examining whether Finland has in this context breached Article 4(4) of Council Directive 79/409/EEC and Article 6(2) to (4) of Council Directive 92/43/EEC.

Regarding the Decision made on 1 July 1999 to sue Finland for failure to designate bird areas in accordance with Article 4(1) and (2) of Council Directive 79/409/EEC, the services of the Commission carried out certain factual and legal specifications before being able to send the application to the Court. These specifications have now been completed and the application has left the Legal Service of the Commission last week.

The representative of the Commission at the EU-committee of the Environment 19/6/2000