EU infringement actions target Belgium again

Latest announcements concern laws on waste, packaging, asbestos, information, chemicals

The European Commission has announced another series of environmental infringement actions against member states following acting European Commissioners' quarterly meeting in Brussels on 1 July. The actions increase the weight of EU legal pressure on Belgium, which hosts the main EU institutions, and is the target of five of the 18 cases announced today.

* Waste management plans:

The Commission is taking five countries to the European Court of Justice for failing to communicate waste management plans as required under three EU directives. These are the 1975 framework waste directive, the 1991 hazardous waste directive and the 1994 packaging waste directive

GERMANY is accused of failing to provide full waste management plans for all its states (länder) or for all types of waste; LUXEMBOURG has, in the Commission's view, taken too long to produce a waste management plan. Although one is due to be adopted in September this year, the Commission says it contains shortcomings, such as the omission of industrial waste packaging.

SPAIN has, in the Commission's view, failed to produce a management plan for municipal waste, and its national plan for hazardous waste has "important shortcomings". ITALY's waste management structure is divided into regions, but some regions have failed to produce a plan whereas others have omitted details on waste types and quantities, the Commission says. Meanwhile, GREECE has produced "no documents which can be considered waste management plans".

* Information on hazardous waste facilities:

Under the 1991 hazardous waste directive, member states are required to inform the Commission about facilities for treating hazardous wastes that should form part of an "integrated and adequate" network of disposal centres. A series of legal actions launched against member states in 1998 has yielded a "generally positive response," the Commission said today, while FRANCE and ITALY have failed to provide all the necessary information. As a result, Italy faces a trip to the European Court, while France is to receive a reasoned opinion.

* Asbestos:

BELGIUM faces a further trip to the court for failure to transpose in the Flanders and Brussels regions provisions in the 1987 asbestos directive dealing with emissions to water and air and pollution from the working of products containing asbestos. Brussels legislation fails to deal with effluent arising from asbestos manufacture, it says. IRELAND is to receive a reasoned opinion for failure to provide enough legislative control over the release of asbestos fibres during its removal, according to the Commission.

* Access to information:

Three countries are accused of failing to properly transpose the 1990 directive on access to environmental information. BELGIUM faces both an application to the court and a reasoned opinion for non-conformity with the law at federal level and a specific allowance for "implicit refusal" of information requests respectively.

There is to be a court case against PORTUGAL over the exclusion of some public bodies from national implementing legislation. Meanwhile, the GERMAN state of Schleswig-Holstein is to face court action for interpreting the two-month period allowed for bodies to respond to information requests as a requirement to provide only acknowledgement of the request rather than a substantive response to it.

* Classification, packaging and labelling of chemicals:

BELGIUM once more faces a trip to the court plus a reasoned opinion, GERMANY court action also, and THE NETHERLANDS and PORTUGAL are both to be sent reasoned opinions for failing to implement various directives amending or updating a 1967 directive which aims to approximate the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous substances.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111. References: Press notices dated 12/7/99 for all mentioned cases can be found on Rapid.

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