Waste framework directive: Case C-157/04 Commission v Spain

Judgement was given in the above case on 28 April 2005. The case concerned failures by Spain to implement the requirements of the Waste Framework Directive (Directive 75/442/EEC).

In particular, Spain was held to have failed to adopt the measures necessary to ensure, that an uncontrolled waste tip in the Punta de Avalos area of the island of Gomera, one of the Canary Islands, complied with Articles 4, 8, 9 and 13 of the Waste Framework Directive (WFD), as well as Article 2 of the hazardous waste Directive (Directive 91/689/EEC), and Article 14 of the landfill Directive (Directive 1999/31/EC).

Spain had also failed to adopt the measures necessary to ensure compliance with the WFD, in respect of an uncontrolled waste tip in Olvera, within the Province of Cadiz, Andalusia.

In respect of the Punta de Avalos waste tip, Spain had previously accepted that the waste tip could cause a number of environmental risks, however had argued that the Ministry of Regional Planning and the Environment had sanctioned, by means of a Resolution dated 13 March 2002, the operation of this waste tip by the municipal authorities.

A reasoned opinion was however, issued to Spain on 17 December 2002, in response to which Spain made reference to a ruling of the Court of First Instance of San Sebastian of the Gomera (Santa Cruz de Tenerife) in which the waste tip was ordered to be closed. However, as this was outwith the 2 month period set out in the reasoned opinion in which Spain was to comply with its various obligations under the above Directives, this could not be taken into account. In respect of Article 8 of the Directive, Spain had also sought to justify its failures on the basis of the territorial specialities.

Due to the volcanic nature of the island of Gomera, Spain had argued that it was difficult to control the existence of illegal waste tips and their location, but the Commission confirmed that Member States cannot argue territorial differences as justification of breaches of Directive obligations.

In respect of the Olvera waste tip, the Commission alleged that information provided by the Spanish Ministry of Environment highlighted the lack of any system of control for the waste tip, in particular to prevent leachate as well as the ingress of water to the tip, therefore causing a deterioration in the quality of water.

The Spanish government accepted that the Olvera tip had not been properly regulated, however drew the Commissions attention to the fact that the site had since been closed down in September 2003 and was undergoing a programme of decontamination. However, again this fell outwith the period set out in the reasoned opinion.

Spain was therefore held to have failed in its obligations under the WFD and ordered to pay the costs on both counts.

The case is not yet available in English but can be found in Spanish and French at the following link:

Waste Spain Case

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