Brussels, 14 January 2005
The European Commission has decided to pursue infringement proceedings against Spain in five cases involving EU environment law. The legislation in question relates to waste-water treatment, disposal of waste and nature conservation. The Commission’s actions are aimed at cleaning up a polluted bathing water at Sueca in Valencia, cleaning up uncontrolled landfills in Almería, and protecting important nature sites in Catalonia, Castilla y Leon, Alicante and Balearic Islands. In three cases Spain is to be referred to the Court of Justice. In the last two cases Spain will receive final warnings, the last step before Court action.
Environment Commissioner, Stavros Dimas, said: "EU environmental directives are there to help Spain protect its rich biodiversity and the natural resources such as fine bathing waters that draw so many visitors. I therefore urge the Spanish authorities to redouble their efforts to correctly implement these directives."
Decisions to refer Spain to the Court of Justice
The Commission has decided to refer Spain to the Court in three cases:
Among other things, operators of landfills must provide so-called "conditioning plans" for landfills that were already operating on 16 July 2001 when the Landfill Directive entered into force. These plans determine whether the sites meet the conditions to continue to operate and, if necessary, outline how they need to be upgraded to meet the conditions. Permits are dependent on the delivery and implementation of the conditioning plans.
Final warnings sent to Spain
In two cases, the Commission has sent Spain final written warnings, known as “Reasoned Opinions,” aimed at securing compliance with EU environmental laws. In the absence of satisfactory responses, the Commission may later decide to refer these cases to the Court:
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" (second and 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, normally two months.
If the Member State fails to comply with the Reasoned Opinion, the Commission may decide to bring the case before the European 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, again by issuing a first written warning (“Letter of Formal Notice”) and then a second and final written warning (“Reasoned Opinion”). The article then allows the Commission to ask the Court to impose a financial penalty on the Member State concerned.
For current statistics on infringements in general see:
For rulings by the European Court of Justice see:
 Council Directive 91/271/EEC
 Council Directive 76/160/EEC
 Council Directive 75/442/EEC as amended by Directive 91/156/EEC
 Council Directive 1999/31/EC
 Directive 92/43/EEC
 Directive 85/337/EEC as amended by Directive 97/11/EC
 Council Directive 79/409/EEC
 Council Directive 85/337/EEC as amended by Directive 97/11/EC