More EU law infringement cases announced

European Commission warns 12 countries over EU environmental law compliance

The European Commission has decided to start or continue legal action against all but three of the EU's 15 member states, alleging that they have failed to comply with EU environmental legislation. Sweden, Luxembourg and the UK are the only countries not threatened today with legal action in the European Court of Justice for non-compliance with directives on hazardous waste incineration, wild birds, habitats, packaging and battery waste.

Announcement of the barrage of legal actions follows the latest quarterly infringement meeting in the Commission. However, the number launched in recent months points to a toughening of the Commission's stance towards countries that fail to comply with EU legislation, according to EU environment commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard.

Writing in the latest edition of her newsletter, Ms Bjerregaard promises that "in future the Commission will deal more firmly with those countries that do not comply with EU environmental law. This is because too many member states are doing too little to actually implement [it]". According to Ms Bjerregaard, 500-600 actions concerning the environment are currently being brought against EU countries.

Earlier this week, the Commission announced legal proceedings under Article 171 of the EU treaty against six EU countries for non-compliance with previous Court judgements concerning EU environmental laws (ENDS Daily 16 December). All the actions announced today are being taken under Article 169 of the treaty, for non-compliance with EU legislation. The environment commissioner's spokesman Peter Jørgensen told ENDS Daily that further infringement procedures will be announced in the new year.

The actions announced today concern the following EU directives:

HAZARDOUS WASTE INCINERATION: Reasoned opinions are to be sent to Belgium, Italy, Greece, Finland, Denmark and Austria for failing to adopt and fully implement the 1994 directive on the incineration of hazardous waste.

WILD BIRDS: The Commission is to take Spain to the European Court of Justice for failing to fully implement the wild birds directive, which requires EU countries to set up a network of special protection areas to protect the EU's most vulnerable bird species. Germany and the Netherlands are to be sent reasoned opinions.

HABITATS: Spain is also to be sent a reasoned opinion for incorrect transposition of the 1992 habitats directive, which seeks to protect endangered plants, animals and natural habitats. According to the Commission, "the Spanish legislation is not as strict as the directive requires in terms of species protection".

BATTERY WASTE: The Commission is to take France, Greece and Italy to the Court of Justice for not setting up action programmes to reduce the impact of battery waste on the environment. This is a key requirement of a 1991 directive on batteries and accumulators containing dangerous substances. Portugal is to be sent a reasoned opinion for non-compliance with the same directive.

PACKAGING WASTE: Reasoned opinions are to be sent to Belgium and Portugal for incorrectly transposing the 1994 directive on packaging waste into national law. In the case of Finland, an application has been made to the Court for non-compliance with the directive in the province of Aland.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: + 32 2 295 1111.

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