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Document 92003E001526

WRITTEN QUESTION E-1526/03 by Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL) to the Commission. Failure to remove blue and brown asbestos from contaminated flats, workshops and other buildings in EU accession State Hungary.

OJ C 78E , 27.3.2004, p. 371–372 (ES, DA, DE, EL, EN, FR, IT, NL, PT, FI, SV)

European Parliament's website

27.3.2004   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

CE 78/371


(2004/C 78 E/0391)

WRITTEN QUESTION E-1526/03

by Erik Meijer (GUE/NGL) to the Commission

(6 May 2003)

Subject:   Failure to remove blue and brown asbestos from contaminated flats, workshops and other buildings in EU accession State Hungary

1.

Is the Commission aware that at least 400 000 square metres of sprayed asbestos containing the most carcinogenic blue asbestos were used in the building of large estates of flats in Hungary in the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's and that particles of this material are released after between 10 and 15 years, as a result of which they spread inside and outside the blocks of flats and that it would cost between EUR 65 and 130 million to clean up the contamination?

2.

Is the Commission also aware that these flats, which were initially rented out to residents by the State, were sold to the occupants before it became known in Hungary that a clean-up operation is required in the interests of both the survival of the residents and the obligation to comply with the Community ‘acquis’ but that the removal of one square metre of asbestos costs between EUR 160 and 190, which is more than a resident's average weekly salary?

3.

Can the Commission confirm that the Hungarian government has no financial resources available or earmarked for making a start on the removal of these large quantities of asbestos from residential buildings and that it was only in March 2003 that an investigation began into the scale of the problem and the implications for public health?

4.

Is brown asbestos still being used in Hungary in garden sheds, hen houses, cellars and garages, partly because of the lack of adequate information?

5.

Is there no legislation in Hungary requiring firms and organisations to remove any asbestos present within certain period? Is this about to change, and if so when?

6.

What is the Commission doing to encourage the removal of the barriers that have hitherto prevented Hungary from complying fully with the Community acquis?

Source: Netherlands newspaper, Het Financieele Dagblad, 14 April 2003.

Answer given by Mr Verheugen on behalf of the Commission

(10 June 2003)

1.

The Hungarian Ministry of Interior confirmed upon request of the Commission that asbestos was used in cellar ceilings in multifamily houses built during the time period mentioned. According to information from the Hungarian Government, it intends to undertake the following measures to rectify the situation: The asbestos in the most dangerous houses will be temporarily covered. This action has already been partially carried out. A recent decree introduced further measures to remove the asbestos from residential areas as of 2004 as part of the National Environmental Programme.

2.

Yes, according to the same source of information, some flats in these houses were owned by the inhabitants already before the political changes. Others were let out at a very low rent not covering the actual cost for normal maintenance and therefore sold to the tenants at a very low price corresponding to 5 to 10 % of the market price.

3.

No, according to our information investigations have started several years ago, and considerable amounts have already been spent on these investigations. As mentioned under 1., further funding for measures is foreseen as of 2004 as part of the National Environmental Programme.

4.

According to information available to the Commission there is no domestic manufacturing of products containing asbestos, but a small part of roofing products made from asbestos-cement has remained on the market, which is imported from Romania and the Ukraine. These products are less costly than asbestos-free substitutes. It is, therefore, considered by the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior that there is no lack of information but rather a lack of financial resources.

5.

According to our information, there is currently no legislation in force, but two decrees covering this issue are under preparation.

6.

The Commission is carefully monitoring Hungary to ensure that it adopts and implements the entire EU environmental ‘acquis’ by the date of accession. Hungary's preparations are overall quite advanced compared with other new Member States. Also, considerable financial resources have been made available for environmental projects both under the PHARE and ISPA programmes.


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