EU warns Portugal, Sweden and Greece

The European Commission has issued warnings to Portugal, Greece and Sweden over shortcomings in environmental impact assessments (EIA) carried out within the countries.

The Commission is referring Portugal to the European Court of Justice for not correctly carrying out an EIA on the final section of the Lisbon to Algarve motorway, arguing that the motorway’s impact on the endangered Iberian Lynx cat was not properly determined beforehand.

Although alternative corridors were assessed, including routes that had a lower impact on protected species such as the Lynx, the Commission is not convinced that the selection of the final route properly took into account the impact on protected sites.

Formal requests have also been sent to Greece and Sweden concerning EIAs. The Mamidakis petrochemical plant on the Greek island of Lesbos has been operating without a permit since 1997, on a site that was nominated for protection under the EU’s Habitats Directive. The Greek Council of State has declared the EIA procedures that were carried out in 1996 and 2000 null and void. The Commission considers that allowing the plant to continue in such a sensitive location without adequate EIAs breaches both EIA and Habitats Directives.

Sweden is being asked to amend its legislation to specify EIAs prior to the decommissioning and dismantling of nuclear power plants and reactors, not required under present regulations. Sweden has told the Commission that it plans to amend its legislation, but the Commission still has not received the necessary notification. Meanwhile decommissioning of the Barsebäck I nuclear power reactor in southern Sweden has begun, without a prior EIA.

The Commission’s requests to Greece and Sweden in the form of ‘reasoned opinions’ are the second stage of the EU’s warning system. Failure to comply within two months may entail referral to the Court of Justice.

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