Spain, Italy, condemned over EU law breaches

European Commission wins court rulings over dangerous substances, nitrate pollution, laws

Spain and Italy were condemned in the European Court of Justice yesterday in separate cases relating to breaches of EU environmental laws. In the Italian case, the European Commission alleged that Italy had failed to comply with a directive on dangerous substances in water passed in 1976. All member states were required to report from 1978 on which among a list of dangerous substances were being discharged to water and what measures were being taken to reduce discharges. Italy had still not done so by 1991, when the Commission sent a first warning, or 1993, when it sent a final warning. In the Spanish case, the Commission alleged a failure to properly transpose EU law on nitrate pollution from agricultural sources. Part of the 1991 directive requires member states to designate zones vulnerable to nitrate pollution and to establish codes of practice to prevent such pollution. Spain had still not notified such measures by 1995, when the Commission sent a first warning. Spain did in fact comply with the directive to the Commission's satisfaction in several of its autonomous regions, meaning that the final ruling has more formal than real significance. The Spanish government argued in court that its lateness was mainly due to its decentralised power structure rather than any refusal to obey EU environmental laws.

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