Further EU law infringement cases announced

Greece and Portugal in the spotlight again for non-compliance with environmental laws

The European Commission has announced a fourth round of legal actions against member states for infringement of EU environmental laws.

GREECE and PORTUGAL again figure prominently in the latest series of press releases issued on Friday. Both countries, alongside ITALY, are to be sent reasoned opinions - final warnings before court action is initiated - for allegedly failing to provide the Commission with details of their facilities for disposing of hazardous waste.

Member states were required to provide details of such facilities under a 1991 law on hazardous waste incineration which, together with a 1975 framework waste directive, aims to ensure that the EU has an adequate network of disposal installations to enable it to become self-sufficient in dealing with its own waste.

Other cases announced by the Commission are as follows:

* GREECE and BELGIUM have been sent reasoned opinions for allegedly failing to comply with a 1991 directive on urban wastewater treatment. Greece was ordered by the European Court of Justice in 1996 to comply with the directive but according to the Commission the legislation it has since adopted still fails to satisfy the terms of the directive. In Belgium's case, the Commission's complaint is that adequate treatment facilities will not be in place for the capital Brussels until 2004 - six years later than required under the directive. Brussels and Milan are said to be the only EU cities without any urban wastewater treatment.

* Court proceedings have been initiated against PORTUGAL over non-compliance with a 1984 directive on air pollution from industrial plants.

* Court proceedings have also been set in train against AUSTRIA and BELGIUM for non-compliance with a series of directives on waste incineration. In Austria's case, the Commission says it has not communicated how it intends to comply with a 1994 law on hazardous waste incineration. In fact, the Austrian ministries for the environment and economic affairs reached agreement on new legislation on Friday which they say will bring Austria into compliance with the law. The government has therefore called on the Commission to withdraw its complaint. Belgium's case concerns alleged infringement of two 1989 directives on air pollution from existing and new municipal waste incineration plants.

* GERMANY faces an appearance in the European court for failing to apply a 1985 directive on environmental impact assessment adequately in the case of express road projects. Under German law the requirement for an assessment can be waived where the owner of the area concerned agrees or where third parties are not involved. A reasoned opinion has been sent to IRELAND over the adequacy of assessments for wind farms.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111. References: Press notices on all cases mentioned are available on the Commission's Rapid service.

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