By Humphrey Carter A total of 68 Balearic beaches and marinas have been awarded European Blue Flags this year in recognition of their high standards of cleanliness, security and environmental compatibility. Fifty-five flags have been awarded to beaches, two more than last year, while 13 marinas, the same number as last year, will be flying the flags, awarded by the international Association of Environmental Education and Consumer Affairs, this summer. A total of 630 beaches and marinas from across Spain competed for the illustrious flags this year with a third failing to make the grade. In total 420 beaches, including the 55 in the Balearics, and 97 marinas have been awarded Blue Flags.

For the International Blue Flag jury which is responsible for examining beaches and marinas in 23 European countries and South Africa, Spain was a complicated destination this year because of the Prestige oil slick which hit the northern coast and obviously a number of beaches in the region lost their flags. In total, 2'161 Blue Flags have been awarded this year to beaches and 728 to marinas with two beaches and two marinas in Iceland making the grade for the first time.

The award of a European Blue Flag, which is only given for one season at a time and is withdrawn if standards fall during the season, is based on compliance with 27 criteria which cover the aspects of:
Water quality
Environmental education and information
Environmental management
Safety and services
Water quality is particularly important.
Beaches and marinas must comply with the requirements and standards set out by the EU Bathing Water Directive.
No industrial or sewage related discharges may affect the beach area.
Local and/or regional emergency plans to cope with pollution accidents. eNo algae or other vegetation may accumulate and be left to decay on the beach, except in areas designated for a specific use and as long as this does not constitute a nuisance.

The community must be in compliance with requirements for sewage treatement and effluent quality such as are contained in the EU Urban Waste Water Directive.