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Brussels, 29 January 2009

Environment: Commission pursues action against 10 Member States over industrial permits

The European Commission had to take infringement action against 10 Member States for failing to issue new or updated permits for over 4,000 industrial installations already in operation across Europe. Denmark and Ireland have been sent first warning letters while eight others warned last May will now receive final written warnings. The permits should have been issued by 30 October 2007.

European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "It is unacceptable that industrial installations are operating without legal permits that ensure they minimise polluting emissions. These permitting procedures have been agreed by all Member States. To protect the health of our citizens and the environment they must be respected."

The infringements concern the EU directive on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC),[1] whose aim is 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 review and – where necessary – update existing permits for all industrial installations that were in operation before 30 October 1999. For Bulgaria and Slovenia, new or updated permits had to be issued for industrial installations in operation by the date of their accession to the EU.

Data provided by Member States themselves show that 10 still have a high number of installations for which new or updated permits have not been issued. These total over 4,000 out of about 52,000 targeted industrial installations throughout the EU .

Eight of these Member States had already been sent a first warning last May (see IP/08/704). They will now receive a final written warning, the last step before being taken to the European Court of Justice. The Member States concerned are Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, and Spain.

Denmark and Ireland will receive first written warnings for the same reason.

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:

For rulings by the European Court of Justice see:

For more information on the IPPC Directive and its implementation:

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

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