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Brussels, 6 May 2008

Environment: Commission warns nine Member States for not issuing industrial permits on time

The European Commission is sending nine Member States first written warnings for failing to issue new or updated permits for over 9,000 industrial installations already in operation across Europe. These Member States did not satisfactorily issue these permits by the 30 October 2007 deadline.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "All installations in operation in the European Union must abide by strict emissions standards. These standards have been established in order to minimize the negative effects of industrial pollution on the health of our citizens and the environment."

First warnings to nine Member States on the issuing of industrial permits

The European Commission is sending nine Member States a first written warning for failing to issue industrial permits in line with the Directive on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) . The aim of the directive is to prevent and control industrial emissions to air, water, and soil. Member States were obliged to issue new permits or review and – where necessary – update existing permits by 30 October 2007 for all industrial installations in operation before 30 October 1999. For Bulgaria, Estonia and Slovenia, new or updated permits had to be issued for industrial installations in operation by the date of their accession to the EU.

On several occasions before the 2007 deadline the Commission advised all Member States of the forthcoming cut-off date for issuing operating permits to industrial installations. In November 2007 the Commission asked Member States for data on the total number of existing installations in operation before the date by which the directive came into effect and the number of new, reviewed and updated permits issued.

The replies show that nine Member States (Belgium, Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, and Spain) had an especially large number of installations for which new or updated permits had not been issued, amounting to a combined figure of over 9,000 out of a total of about 52,000 targeted industrial installations throughout the EU.

It is clear that these Member States have not complied with provisions in the directive. This is why the Commission has decided to take legal action against these Member States.

The Commission will continue to closely monitor the permitting progress and to support all Member States in its implementation.

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" (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 rulings by the European Court of Justice see:

For more information on the IPPC Directive and its implementation:

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