(AFP) – Oct 14, 2010
LUXEMBOURG — European regulators said Thursday they were waiting for the clean-up after Hungary's deadly toxic mud spill before looking at changes to anti-pollution laws.
"The most important thing at this moment is to focus on ensuring the situation in Hungary is stabilised, that the risk of further contamination is addressed and that the clean-up operation takes place as soon as possible," said EU environment commissioner Janez Potocnik.
Only then would Europe "start looking" at changing the law, he underlined after talks with environment ministers in Luxembourg.
Potocnik said Hungarian rural development minister Sandor Fazekas briefed counterparts on stabilisation efforts after a broken dam unleashed toxic sludge from an aluminium plant on October 4, killing nine people and polluting land around the Danube river.
The commissioner urged states to respect ahead of schedule tightened rules governing dangerous industrial waste that are not due to be implemented until May 2012.
Campaigners have blamed EU "loopholes" for the disaster.
But Potocnik underlined that suggestions of an urgent re-write of EU rules were premature.
EU officials would be "looking into" Hungary's inspections regime after Budapest issued a permit in 2006 for the plant to store toxic material at the site, he said.
States must identify "the most potentially dangerous facilities and ensure appropriate protection," Potocnik told ministers.
It was also "extremely important they would want to comply" now, even though some of the strictest regulations will not become enforceable until May 2012, he said.
"It's not only having in place European legislation, it's implementing and enforcing it" that count, he said.
"I'm convinced that's what needs to be strengthened in future."
Hungarian authorities said Wednesday that villagers evacuated from the area could return home, as the plant responsible prepared to resume production.
A municipal court also freed the company's managing director after arrest, pending further enquiries.
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