Commission tackles EU law infringements

Germany to be warned over packaging refill quota; four states in hot water over sewage

The European Commission today confirmed its intention to send Germany a final warning over its law requiring a high proportion of certain types of beverage packaging to be refillable. The EU executive also announced court actions against Italy, Austria and Germany over the 1991 urban wastewater treatment directive, plus a second warning to Belgium.

The decision on Germany's packaging "refill quota" follows a long period of soul searching in the European Commission, which has been under sustained pressure from packaging firms to challenge the law while its own environment directorate opposed the move (ENDS Daily 26 January).

As predicted by ENDS Daily, the formal announcement of a final warning to Germany is based on a compromise within the Commission under which only the refill quota for mineral waters is being challenged and not the quotas for milk, beer, wine and other beverages (ENDS Daily 28 June). A statement released by the Commission today laid a heavy hint that action against the refill quota on wine might follow in future.

The four infringements over the urban wastewater treatment directive concern a variety of failings in implementation by the member states concerned. EU environment commissioner drew special attention to the continuing complete absence of sewage treatment facilities in the major European cities of Milan in Italy (ENDS Daily 6 January) and of Belgium's capital Brussels (ENDS Daily 21 April 1999).

While the court action against Italy concerns only the situation in Milan, the warning to Belgium also claims incorrect identification of sensitive areas in the Flanders region, a failure to apply treatment requirements for discharges to sensitive areas in the Walloon region and other counts.

The action against Austria concerns failure to set correct deadlines for some discharges or to include all necessary industrial sectors. Draft legislation remedying nearly all the infringement has been submitted, the Commission says, but is still insufficient.

Though the German authorities have also submitted new draft legislation, this too, fails to deal with all shortcomings, such as a lack of proper collecting systems for urban wastewater in certain federal states, the Commission said.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111. Press notices are likely to be posted on Thursday on Rapid.

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