The Malta Independent 15 July 2024, Monday
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Landfill Directive: EC starts legal action against Malta

Malta Independent Friday, 23 March 2007, 00:00 Last update: about 11 years ago

The European Commission has decided to start legal action against 14 member states, including Malta, for inadequately transposing into national law the EU’s legislation on the landfilling of waste.

The EC sent first-warning letters to seven member states last December, and is now doing the same for Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

The Commission said its action followed a comprehensive evaluation of the degree of compliance with the Landfill Directive by 25 EU member states. The directive governs operation of landfill sites and is a key measure to protect human health and the environment against potential hazards from waste.

Stavros Dimas, European Commissioner for the environment, said: “The Commission’s checks have revealed many shortcomings in compliance with the rules on waste landfills in virtually every member state. The result is that human health and the environment are not being protected as well as they need to be against dangers from the dumping of waste. Eight years after the Landfill Directive was adopted, it is high time for all member states to rectify this situation without further delay.”

The Commission has carried out a check on the legislation of 25 EU member states to assess conformity with the Landfill Directive.

In each of the 14 member states which are to receive first warnings, various provisions have not been fully transposed into national or regional law.

The Commission took the same action last December against Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Portugal.

Common problems identified in the 14 member states include incomplete, incorrect or non-transposition of: the definitions, for instance of different types of waste and storage methods; the scope, including the types of waste that may be exempted; requirements concerning which types of waste can be sent to which classes of landfill; requirements concerning the content of operating permits for landfills; the requirement that the prices charged by the operator for use of a landfill must cover all costs, including after-care costs for at least 30 years after closure; requirements concerning procedures that must be undertaken before waste can be accepted at a landfill; and requirements concerning the continued operation of existing landfills.

Landfill Directive

The Landfill Directive, adopted in 1999, establishes a set of detailed rules with which waste landfills must comply. The objective is to prevent or minimise the negative effects that landfill sites can have, such as pollution of water, soil and air, and emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. The directive also helps to promote the recovery and recycling of waste. In particular, it bans certain types of waste from being put in landfill sites, for example used tyres, and requires member states to reduce the amount of biodegradable waste they landfill to 35 per cent of 1995 levels by 2016.

Legal process

Article 226 of the Treaty gives the Commission powers to take legal action against a member state that is not respecting its obligations.

If the Commission considers that there may be an infringement of EU law that warrants the opening of an infringement procedure, it addresses a “Letter of Formal Notice” (first written warning) to the member state concerned, requesting it to submit its observations by a specified date, usually two months.

In the light of the reply or absence of a reply from the member state concerned, the Commission may decide to address a “reasoned opinion” (final written warning) to the member state. This clearly and definitively sets out the reasons why it considers there to have been an infringement of EU law, and calls upon the member state to comply within a specified period, usually two months.

If the member state fails to comply with the reasoned opinion, the Commission may decide to bring the case before the Court of Justice. Where the Court of Justice finds that the treaty has been infringed, the offending member state is required to take the measures necessary to conform.

Article 228 of the Treaty gives the Commission power to act against a member state that does not comply with a previous judgement of the European Court of Justice. The article also allows the Commission to ask the court to impose a pecuniary penalty on the member state concerned.

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Malta and the EC

It has been a “bad” week for Malta at the European Commission.

On Wednesday, the Commission started infringement proceedings against Malta on the levying of car registration taxes on used cars imported from other EU-member countries.

It also decided to send a supplementary letter of formal notice with regard to the spring hunting issue.

Yesterday, the Commission decided to send a final warning about Malta’s failure to provide annual reports on the progress in reducing and limiting greenhouse gas emissions. It also decided to start legal action against Malta for inadequately transposing into national law the EU’s legislation on the landfilling of waste.

On a positive note, the EC found that although payments made by the government to finance new vehicles and ticketing machines for Malta’s public transport system constituted a form of state aid, the payments were legitimate.

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