Honours even in EU port waste facilities spat

Commission interpretation of agreement could have knock-on effect on scrap car law

EU governments and the European Parliament have reached agreement on a new directive governing how EU ports should charge for ship waste disposal facilities in order to reduce marine pollution. Under the compromise, at least 30% of ship waste handling costs will be recovered through a flat fee charged on every ship. The real significance of the deal, however, may be its influence on the recently-agreed end-of-life vehicles directive (ENDS Daily 24 May).

The dispute concerned the parliament's demand for a mandatory EU "no-special-fee" charging system under which ships would pay a single charge for port facilities whether they dumped waste there or not. MEPs said this was the only way to discourage waste being dumped at sea and that the scheme should be used to recover at least 90% of costs (ENDS Daily 17 March).

The European Commission rejected the argument and supported an earlier compromise among transport ministers (ENDS Daily 4 May). This would have allowed member states to choose between no-special-fee or systems in which port fees depended on the amount and type of waste dumped (ENDS Daily 18 June 1999).

In a text assembled through the conciliation process, the EU's two legislative poles have now agreed that all ships calling at EU ports will contribute "significantly" to the costs of reception of waste from ships, "irrespective of actual use of the facilities." The fee can vary according to ship size and type, and the rest of the waste disposal costs can be covered based on the types and quantities of waste actually delivered by the ship, they say.

In a declaration accompanying the text, the Commission stipulates that "significant" means at least 30%. The definition is believed to be the first of its kind and is important because the word is crucial to the car recycling directive. In its producer responsibility clauses, the law states that car manufacturers pay "all or a significant part" of the costs of waste car treatment.

The burden has not been expressed as a definitive percentage and what counts as "significant" may ultimately be decided in the courts. In the meantime, interpretations vary from 20% to 90% depending on the interests involved. The European Commission was unable to confirm today whether the new definition would apply to the word when used in other directives.

Follow Up:
EU Council of Ministers, tel: +32 2 285 6111. See also a press release.

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