Austria home to the ‘best bathing waters’ in Europe, new ranking claims

Bathing waters at more than four out of five beaches in the European Union are of "excellent" quality, with Austria, Malta and Greece topping a European Environment Agency list.

Austria home to the 'best bathing waters' in Europe, new ranking claims
Austria's lake Worthersee, in the state of Carinthia. (Photo by Branislav Knappek on Unsplash)

Austria tops the ranking of best bathing waters in the European Union, according to a European Environment Agency study published this week, with 97.7 per cent of the measured spots showing “excellent” quality.

Austria’s famous lakes and rivers topped the ranking, followed by Malta, Greece, Croatia and Cyprus. Last year, the Alpine country was second in the ranking, behind Cyprus, as The Local reported.

READ ALSO: The best lakes and swimming spots in Austria

The bathing waters are quality classified according to the two microbiological parameters (Escherichia coli and intestinal enterococci) defined in the Bathing Water Directive, EEA said.

In Austria, 261 bathing areas are defined as “EU bathing waters”, which means that the quality of your water is regularly examined according to uniform criteria throughout Europe.

Besides checking for germs and contamination, the health authorities also report on visibility and temperature, and the population can view the water quality using an official app.

European bathing waters

In 2021, 84.8 per cent of bathing sites in the EU were classified as “excellent”. In addition, the minimum water quality standards were met at 95.2 per cent of areas, according to the agency.

The quality of coastal sites is generally better than that of inland sites, the report showed. The share of poor-quality sites has generally dropped since 2013. In 2021, poor bathing waters constituted 1.5 per cent of all places in the EU, compared to 2 per cent in 2013, which shows improvements in the management of poor bathing sites in Europe.

READ ALSO: Discover Austria: Five beautiful hikes and destinations south of Vienna

Under EU rules, bathing water sites that have been classified as “poor” for five consecutive years are slapped with a permanent ban.

The study follows water quality in the European Union countries, Albania, and Switzerland. Since 2021, there is no longer information about 640 bathing sites in the UK as it is no longer reported.

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EU court rejects Austria case against Hungary nuclear plant

The EU's second highest court on Wednesday rejected a complaint by Austria against a European Commission decision to approve the expansion of a nuclear plant in neighbouring Hungary with Russian aid.

EU court rejects Austria case against Hungary nuclear plant

Staunchly anti-nuclear Austria lodged the legal complaint in 2018 after the European Union’s executive arm allowed the expansion of the Paks nuclear plant outside the Hungarian capital Budapest with a 10-billion-euro ($12.4 billion) Russian loan.

The plant is Hungary’s only nuclear facility and supplies around 40 percent of its electricity needs.

In its decision the commission judged that the project met EU rules on state aid, but Austria disputed this.

The General Court of the EU ruled Wednesday that “member states are free to determine the composition of their own energy mix and that the Commission cannot require that state financing be allocated to alternative energy sources.”

READ ALSO: Why is Austria so anti nuclear power? 

Hungary aims to have two new reactors enter service by 2030, more than doubling the plant’s current capacity with the 12.5-billion-euro construction. The Paks plant was built with Soviet-era technology in the 1980s during Hungary’s communist period. 

The construction of two new reactors is part of a 2014 deal struck between Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister Victor Orban and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The work is carried out by Moscow’s state-owned nuclear agency Rosatom.

The details of the deal have been classified for 30 years for “national security reasons” with critics alleging this could conceal corruption.

READ ALSO: Reader question: What are the chances of blackouts in Austria this winter?

Since the late 1970s, Austria has been fiercely anti-nuclear, starting with an unprecedented vote by its population that prevented the country’s only plant from providing a watt of power.

Last month, the Alpine EU member filed a complaint with the European Court of Justice over the bloc’s decision to label nuclear power as green.

In 2020, the top EU court threw out an appeal by Austria to find British government subsidies for the nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in breach of the bloc’s state aid rules.