More than one in three complaints the European Commission received about non-compliance with its directives last year concerned the environment, a report has revealed.
And the implementation of waste laws was particularly poor, according to the Fifth Annual Survey on the Implementation and Enforcement of EU Environmental Law.
The commission received 505 complaints about violations of EU environmental law in 2003, while there were 88 cases of member states not transposing such directives on time. There were also 118 occasions where environmental directives were incorrectly put into national laws, and 95 cases of other obligations within the directives not being met.
Ireland was named as one of the worst five EU countries for complying with environmental laws, along with France, Italy, Spain and Greece. Meanwhile, the UK was heavily criticised for its handling of the End-of-Life Vehicles Directive.
Most shortcomings in implementing environmental directives were said to have come in the waste, water and nature sectors, as well as in the carrying out of environmental impact assessments.
Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström said: During my mandate, I have been struck by the high number of complaints about non-compliance with EU environmental law that we have received from citizens, non-Government organisations and the Parliament.
This survey shows that those concerns are justified. Implementation of EU environmental law is bad. I hope the surveys findings will give member states reason to improve their record and provide their citizens with the level of environmental protection they demand.
The commission is determined to improve the implementation of environmental laws but is not convinced that taking countries to court is the way to do this.
A statement released with the report said: Implementation of EU environmental law clearly needs to be improved. This is all the more important now that the EU has enlarged.
Taking non-compliant member states to the European Court of Justice is not the only nor necessarily the most efficient way to ensure compliance, because the proceedings are time-consuming.
The commissions Environment Directorate-General has therefore developed a more proactive approach both in the preparation and in the implementation of environmental legislation, including regular contacts with officials responsible for implementation at national level.
However, the commission can only assist in implementation the member states are the ones that need to carry it out.