the Commission of the European Communities
MEP Heidi Hautala
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
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-)
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.
21 November 1995
+358 - 0 - 667 921
+358 - 0 ~ 667 923
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).
protection areas for Wild Birds: Commission moves against Germany,
Italy, Portugal, Austria, Finland and Spain"
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."
BY THE COMMISSION TO THE QUESTION NO. 16/00 BY MRS. HEIDI HAUTALA
AND JONAS SJÖSTEDT
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.
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.
representative of the Commission at the EU-committee of the