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IP/09/1649

Brussels, 29 October 2009

Environment: Commission takes action against nine Member States over missing industrial permits

The European Commission is taking six Member States to the European Court of Justice for failing to issue new or updated permits for over 1,500 industrial installations operating there. The six are Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain. The Commission is also sending first written warnings to Austria, France and Sweden over a further 1,700 installations operating without permits. In all cases the permits should have been issued by 30 October 2007.

European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "It is now two years since the deadline passed for existing installations to be given permits ensuring they minimise pollutant emissions, yet in six Member States over 1,500 continue to operate without a proper permit. This is unacceptable and the Commission will take action to ensure that Member States comply with their obligations under industrial emissions legislation.”

Industrial emissions directive

The infringements concern the EU Directive on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC), 1 which aims to prevent and control industrial emissions to air, water, and soil.

The Directive required Member States by 30 October 2007 to issue new permits or reconsider and, where necessary, update existing permits for all industrial installations that were in operation before 30 October 1999.

Missing permits

Data provided by Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain show that there are just over 1,500 installations in these Member States for which new or updated permits have not been issued.

Having sent two written warnings already, the Commission has therefore decided to take the six Member States to Court over this breach of the Directive. The number of missing permits is, however, well below the level of more than 4,500 that existed in these Member States when the Commission launched infringement proceedings in May 2008 (see IP/08/704 ).

The Commission has also sent first written warnings to Austria, France and Sweden for insufficient progress towards issuing permits for around 1,700 installations operating in those countries, 1,647 of which are located in France alone.

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 within a specified period, 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, please visit the following web-site:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/legal/implementation_en.htm

For more information on the IPPC Directive and its implementation:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/air/pollutants/stationary/ippc/index.htm

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/ippc/ippc_indic_permits.htm

1 :

Directive 96/61/EC, codified by Directive 2008/1/EC


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