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European Commission - Press release
Environment: Commission prompts Finland to comply with waste and environmental assessments legislation
Brussels, 26 October 2011 – The European Commission is taking action against Finland for concerns about the country's transposition of the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive and its failure to meet the 2010 deadline to transpose the EU Waste Framework Directive into national law. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is sending two reasoned opinions and asking Finland to comply within two months. If Finland fails to do so, the Commission may refer the cases to the EU Court of Justice and, in the non-communication waste case, ask for immediate financial penalties.
Strategic Environmental Assessments
The Strategic Environmental Assessments Directive requires large-scale plans and programmes that are likely to have significant effects on the environment to be subject to an environmental assessment. In the Commission's view, the Finnish laws transposing this Directive contain several shortcomings. On the mainland, the laws lack details about the timing of the consultations to be carried out by public authorities on the plans and programmes. However, a number of the inadequacies concern the Åland islands. The laws do not specify that the environmental assessments must apply to programmes, and they lack sufficient detail on the quality and content of the assessments and on provisions guaranteeing citizens' access to information.
The Commission sent a letter of formal notice on 9 October 2009. New legislation transposing the Directive into national laws was notified to the Commission between 2009 and 2010. However, as several shortcomings persist, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion.
Waste Framework Directive
The EU Waste Framework Directive 2008/98/EC sets the legal framework for waste treatment in the EU. It introduces waste management principles such as the "polluter pays principle" and lays down a binding waste hierarchy that requires Member States to manage their waste in the following order of priority: prevention, reuse, recycling, other recovery and disposal.
Member States had to bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the Directive by 12 December 2010. As Finland did not notify the Commission of all the implementing measures in time, a letter of formal notice was sent in January 2011. Finland notified several national transposing measures to the Commission. However, the transposition is still inadequate as an additional Government Decree is needed in order to complete the transposition. Since the legislation has still not been adopted in the Member State, the Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion.
Under a new EU policy, when Member States fail to transpose EU legislation into national law within the required deadline, the Commission may ask the Court for financial sanctions to be imposed at the first referral to court, without having to return to the Court for a second ruling. This policy was adopted in November 2010 and entered into force on 15 January 2011.
The amount of waste generated in the EU is constantly growing, with 3 billion tonnes of waste generated each year. The Waste Framework Directive aims to decouple economic growth from waste generation and sets a legal framework for waste treatment within the EU. The purpose is to protect the environment and human health through the prevention of the harmful effects of waste generation and waste management.
In January 2011, the Commission opened infringement proceedings against 23 Member States for non-compliance with the Waste Framework Directive. Of the original 23 cases, 14 remain open, all of which are at the reasoned opinion stage (see IP/11/1103, IP/11/595 and IP/11/724).
The Strategic Environmental Assessments Directive contributes to sustainable development as the assessments specifically enable environmental considerations to be integrated in the preparation and adoption of plans and programmes.
For current statistics on infringements in general:
More details on EU waste policy: