Belgium heads for censure over permitting

European Court of Justice advisor backs Commission complaint over "tacit authorisations"

Belgium now almost certainly faces condemnation by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) over industrial pollution permitting rules in two of its three regions after the move was recommended yesterday by an official advisor. Court advocate general Jean Mischo said that systems of "tacit authorisations" operated in Wallonia and Flanders put Belgium in breach of no less than five EU environmental directives.

The case was brought by the European Commission nearly two years ago (ENDS Daily 9 July 1999), complaining that it was not acceptable under EU law for member states to grant pollution permits to firms other than by "express act". In Flanders and Wallonia, however, authorities were allowing companies to proceed if no official opinion on an application was received within a certain period, therefore effectively granting authorisations by default.

The five EU environmental laws allegedly breached by this system are: the 1975 framework waste directive, the 1976 dangerous substances in water directive, the 1980 directive on the protection of groundwater from dangerous substances, the 1984 directive on industrial air pollution, and the 1985 environmental impact assessment directive.

Follow Up:
European Court of Justice, tel: +353 43031, and the advocate general's opinion.

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