Brussels, 18 March 2010
Environment: Commission takes action against Sweden and Austria over missing industrial permits
The Commission is sending final warnings to Austria and Sweden about some 70 industrial installations that are either operating without permits or with permits that are now out of date. Fifty of these plants are in Sweden, and 21 in Austria. 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.
The Commission is not satisfied with the pace at which European laws on industrial pollution control are being implemented in Austria and Sweden. The Commission previously has already sent similar warnings in the case of twelve other Member States.
In Sweden, some 50 plants still lack the necessary permits, which have been a legal requirement since October 2007, and the Commission has learned that the situation is unlikely to change before the end of this year. In the face of such slow progress, a final warning has therefore been sent. If Sweden fails to act, a court summons could follow.
A final warning has also been sent to Austria regarding 21 plants that lack the appropriate permits. Eighteen are in upper Austria, one in Vorarlberg and two in Styria. For five installations, Austria has been unable to give any clear indication of when the permits might be issued.
Under European law, industrial and agricultural activities with a high pollution potential must be licensed. The permit, issued under the Integrated Pollution and Prevention Control (IPPC) directive1, 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.
In November last year initial warnings were sent about failures to bring permitting into line with the legislation. 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 Commission has the power to take legal action against a Member State that is not respecting its obligations under Community law, under Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
The infringement procedure begins with a first written warning ("Letter of Formal Notice") to the Member State concerned, which must be answered within two months.
If the Commission is not satisfied with the reply, this first letter may be followed by a final written warning ("Reasoned Opinion") clearly explaining the infringement, and calling on the Member State to comply within a specified period, usually two months.
A failure to act on the final written warning can result in a summons to the Court of Justice. If the Court rules against the Member State, it must then take the necessary measures to comply with the judgment.
If, despite the ruling, a Member State still fails to act, a further round of the infringement process begins under Article 260 of the Treaty, this time with only one written warning. This second round can ultimately result in financial penalties for the Member State concerned.
For current statistics on infringements in general, see:
For more information on the IPPC Directive and its implementation:
Case numbers :
Austria 2009/2289 Sweden 2009/2291
Directive 96/61/EC, codified by Directive 2008/1/EC