EU swimming beaches get clean bill of health

BRUSSELS (AFP) - The vast majority of some 22,000 swimming beaches in the EU are clean and safe, the European Environment Agency said on Tuesday.

The EEA annual report for 2012 showed the water met the minimum standards required for bathing at 94 per cent of all swimming beaches in the European Union.

At 78 per cent of the beaches, the quality of the water was found to be excellent, the top rating, with Cyprus leading the way as all of its 112 swimming beaches got the best review.

Cyprus, a popular holiday destination, was followed by Malta, Croatia, Greece, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Finland and Spain, the report said.

"The overall message of this report is that in 2012 bathing waters in Europe remained at the high level of quality reached in previous seasons," the report said.

On the downside, it noted that some 13 per cent of Belgian swimming waters failed to come up to scratch, followed by 6.5 per cent in the Netherlands and 6.0 per cent in Britain.

In the early 1990s, about 60 per cent of EU beaches got the top rating but there has been steady improvement since then in both awareness and remedial measures, especially in terms of sewage treatment.