Almost all of Europe's 21,000 bathing sites have clean water and can be used by holiday-makers, the European Commission said Thursday. It also said that about 1,000 beaches are best avoided.
"European's bathing sites remain clean and water quality is high," EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas told journalists as he unveiled the 2008 findings of an annual report into bathing water quality.
"Over 96 percent of coastal bathing areas and 92 percent of inland bathing areas complied with minimum quality standards," Dimas said.
Although Europe's bathing water was mostly clean, Italy stood out with 553 coastal beaches and freshwater sites where bathing had been closed or banned throughout the season, far more than in other countries.
The list of sites can be found at www.ec.europa.eu/environment/water/water-bathing/report_2009.html.
European Environment Agency executive director Jacqueline McGlade said that "it's too early to say" whether there has been an improvement at those bathing sites since last year as the data was not yet available.
The commission also said that clean water did not necessarily mean that beaches themselves were also clean.
Of the 14,551 coastal bathing areas in the European Union, bathing was banned or closed throughout the season in only 307 sites and was found not to be complying with EU standards in 208 sites.
Among the 6,890 freshwater sites, bathing was banned at 315 sites and was not up to EU standards in 196.