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Commission back on the law enforcement trail

19th December 2002

Environment Daily News Service

The European Commission has unveiled a flurry of infringement actions against EU member states allegedly failing to comply with EU rules on waste management, habitats or wild birds protection. Top of the list of offenders are
Greece, subject to six separate actions, and Italy, subject to four. France and Ireland are both targeted three times.

Commissioners approved all the cases on Tuesday. A further action concerning Irish compliance with EU environmental impact assessment rules will be unveiled tomorrow. Other steps agreed at the meeting are to be announced in January.

All EU states except Denmark, Finland, Portugal and the UK are targeted at least once among the 25 separate actions publicised today. Five of the cases involve referrals to the European court of justice. Another five concern warnings of potential repeat legal actions where governments are failing to respect earlier court judgements. States can be fined if they are condemned twice over the same legal breach. Highlights include:

Repeat infringement procedures: The Commission is sending repeat first warnings to
Luxembourg for not adopting the European waste list under the hazardous waste directive, France for not adopting a decontamination plan for PCBs and PCTs, and Italy for not communicating a waste management plan for Sicily.

Greece is being sent a first warning for continued failure to protect the rare Mediterranean sea turtle. France is to receive a final warning for not designating two areas in the Basses Corbières region under the 1979 wild birds directive.

Court actions: Cases have been announced against
Sweden and Greece for failing to comply with the EU waste oils directive, and in particular to ensure that regeneration is given priority over recovery (Sweden regenerates "0%" of waste oils, the Commission notes). Greece is also charged with failing to provide a waste management plan for a region near Athens. Italy is in the dock for failing to require permitting of all waste handlers. The Netherlands faces court action for shortcomings in its legislation implementing the habitats directive.

Among 15 notices of potential court action,
Austria is being sent a final warning over national rules allowing landfilling of packaging waste to count as organic recycling. Belgium is being warned for over-enthusiastically trying to block shipments of waste to the Netherlands. Ireland is being sent a warning for not having in place all legislation needed for it to meet 2005 targets for recycling packaging waste.