Italy was condemned in the European Court of Justice over the issue in 1996. Earlier this month, the EU Commission announced a final legal warning to Italy in a repeat action that, if it ends in a second condemnation, could result in daily fines being levied against the national government (ENDS Daily 6 January). No such fines have ever been levied against an EU member state to date. According to EU officials, this is mainly because the threat of them provides excellent deterrent value, as now seen in the case of Milan.
The state of emergency will last until 30 April 2001, according to a government decree published in Italy's official gazette on Friday. It is intended to speed up construction of three sewage treatment plants for Milan. Nevertheless, with completion of the plants not currently foreseen before 2002-2005, Italy will still have its work cut out to stave off the threat of fines.
Italian environment ministry, tel: +39 06 57 22 55 80.
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