UK, Spain, Greece and Finland to go to court over pollution

The European Commission has decided to refer the four nations to the European Court of Justice for failure to implement the Directive on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC), one of the Community’s major pieces of recent environmental legislation.

The EC announced on 19 January that the UK, Spain, Greece and Finland are to be taken to court, whilst Luxembourg, Germany and Belgium have been given two months to implement the Directive. The IPPC applies to a significant number of potentially polluting industrial activities and seeks to prevent or reduce all air, water and land pollution, waste and energy use through a comprehensive and integrated permitting system. The deadline for adopting the legislation, which replaced systems regulating each form of pollution individually, and sending it to the Commission was 30 October 1999.

The UK adopted legislation for England, Wales and Scotland (see related story) in August, but the Commission is still waiting to receive adopted measures for Northern Ireland and Gibraltar. Finland has sent measures for the Finnish mainland but not for the province of Åland. The Commission has received no measures from Greece. The measures notified by Luxembourg comprise partial transposing measures as well as draft legislation not yet adopted. Germany and Spain too have sent draft measures but their adoption is not foreseen before later in 2001. In the case of Belgium, adopted measures are missing for Wallonia.

The decisions in these cases are an example of the Commission’s standard practice of pursuing concerted legal action where Member States have failed to implement a Directive before the deadline agreed by the Council of Ministers.

“The IPPC Directive is a significant advance in environmental regulation of polluting industrial activities,” commented Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström. “I urge Member States who are late with their national laws to make every effort to complete the necessary legislative work as soon as possible.”

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