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Brussels, 28 October 2010

Environment: Commission takes Sweden to Court over missing industrial permits

The Commission is referring Sweden to the European Court of Justice over industrial installations that are operating with permits that are now out of date. The permits of at least 26 installations have not yet been reconsidered or updated. Under European law, the permits should have been issued by 30 October 2007. Permits are only issued if a number of environmental criteria are met. Although progress is being made, the Commission is concerned at its slow pace. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is therefore referring Sweden to the Court.

Under European law, industrial and agricultural activities with a high pollution potential must be licensed. In Sweden, at least 26 plants still lack permits required under EU law, which have been a legal requirement since 30 October 2007, and the Commission has learned that the situation is unlikely to be resolved before next year. Sweden was warned in March this year when 50 permits were missing, and although the backlog is being reduced, the Commission is not satisfied with the pace of the permitting process. It has therefore referred Sweden to the European Court of Justice.

The Commission previously has already taken 6 other Member States to Court for similar infringements of the Integrated Pollution and Prevention Control (IPPC) Directive (see IP/09/1649). In November 2009 the Commission issued letters of formal notice about failures to bring permitting into line with the legislation, with reasoned opinions following in March of this year (IP/10/314). The IPPC 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.


The IPPC Directive (Directive 96/61/EC, codified by Directive 2008/1/EC) provides an EU-wide standard for licensing industrial and agricultural activities with a high pollution potential. Permits can only be issued if certain environmental conditions are met, so that the companies themselves bear responsibility for preventing and reducing any pollution they may cause. Permitting ensures that the most appropriate pollution-prevention measures are used, and that waste is recycled or disposed of in the least polluting way possible.

For current statistics on infringements in general, see:

For more information on the IPPC Directive and its implementation:


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