Errant Italy feels EC wrath over eco-law abuse

Italy has found itself under fire from Brussels as it becomes the latest target of the European Commission's campaign to crack down on alleged breaches of environmental law and lax reporting from Member States.

The Commission is taking legal action over a total of 11 possible breaches of environmental law, ten of which relate to Italy’s apparent failure to provide information on air pollution, nature protection, waste management, environmental impact assessment and biotechnology.

Environment Commissioner, Stavros Dimas said: “In spite of previous warnings, Italy is not complying fully with EU environmental laws or cooperating over our requests for information.

“The Italian authorities should take the necessary steps quickly so that Italy’s citizens and its environment can benefit from the protection granted under European law.”

As well as the ten demands for more information, the Commission has sent the Italian government a final written warning over the way Italy has implemented the EU directive on Environmental Impact Assessment.

The warning relates to projects known as “strategic works to be built in the national interest,” in Euro-talk.

Italian law already provides for an alternative impact assessment procedure for this type of projects so Rome considers itself covered but this law does not, in the Commission’s opinion, go far enough to ensure that an additional EIA is carried out if a project is modified from its original plan.

The ten other cases all relate to legislation which requires Members to cooperate with the Commission and provide information on request.

According to the Commission Italy has consistently failed to respond when quizzed on various projects that could have a significant environmental impact.

These include expansions to a coastal military base that could impact on a conservation area, plans for two large waste incinerators, proposals for ski facilities which would ride roughshod over the protected habitat of wild birds, a series of hydro electric projects which would also impact on wildlife habitats, failure to implement packaging waste laws properly in the Campania region and not complying with EU rules governing the coexistence of GMO and conventional crops.

In all the cases the Commission has received complaints from citizens or organisations that EU law might not be correctly applied in Italy.

By not responding to the Commission’s request for information, Italy is in breach of its obligations.

The final warnings effectively give Rome two months to respond to the Commission’s concerns before court action begins.

By Sam Bond

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