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Brussels, 24 November 2010

Environment: Commission asks Portugal to comply with Court ruling on industrial accidents

The European Commission is asking Portugal to comply with a ruling by the European Court of Justice on emergency planning for major industrial accidents. In September 2009, the Court found that Portugal was failing to implement the Seveso Directive, legislation that obliges Member States to draw up emergency plans to cover major accidents involving dangerous substances. More than a year after the Court ruling, the Commission has still not been notified about plans for 50 installations. At the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is therefore issuing a Letter of Formal Notice under ongoing infringement proceedings. If the necessary actions are not taken by the Portuguese authorities, the Commission may decide to take Portugal back to Court to request financial penalties.

On 15 October 2009 the European Court of Justice declared that Portugal had failed to draw up external emergency plans for a considerable number of establishments covered by the Seveso Directive, a piece of legislation intended to minimize the risks from major accident hazards involving dangerous substances.

Under the Seveso Directive 96/82/EC, emergency plans are drawn up to provide a framework for containing and controlling incidents so as to minimize their effects, and to limit damage to citizens, the environment and property. Such plans cover measures that should be taken outside installations during a major accident or emergency. The plans must contain on-site and off-site mitigation actions and also include arrangements for providing the public with specific information relating to the accident and the behaviour to adopt.

Portugal indicated that plans existed for four installations, and were being drawn up for a further 50 installations, to be completed by the first quarter of 2010.

But in the absence of any further confirmation from Portugal, the Commission has concluded that the necessary measures to comply with the judgement of 15 September 2009 have not been taken, and a Letter of Formal Notice is being sent. If the appropriate action is not taken by the Portuguese authorities, the Commission may decide to refer the case back to Court and request financial penalties.

For current statistics on infringements in general see:

For more details on infringement procedures in general, see MEMO/10/605

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