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Brussels, 6 April 2011

Environment: Commission takes Austria to Court over missing industrial permits

The Commission is referring Austria to the EU Court of Justice over outdated permits for their industrial installations. Under European legislation, new permits should have been issued by 30 October 2007. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is therefore referring the case to the Court. Austria has two months to comply.

Under European law, industrial and agricultural activities with a high pollution potential must be licensed. The Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive required Member States by 30 October 2007 to issue new permits or revise existing permits for all industrial installations that were in operation before 30 October 1999. Permits are only issued if a number of environmental criteria are met.

In November 2009 an initial warning was sent to Austria about failures to bring the issuing of permits into line with the legislation. A reasoned opinion followed in March 2010 when 21 permits were still missing (see IP/10/314). Although the number of non-compliant installations has gone down, seven plants still lack the permits required. The Commission is not satisfied with the pace of the permitting process. It is therefore referring Austria to the European Court of Justice.

Installations must have the correct permits to ensure they meet the strict requirements necessary to ensure the highest protection to human health and the environment. Large industrial installations account for a considerable proportion of total emissions of key atmospheric pollutants, and have major environmental impacts. Air pollution can have numerous consequences including respiratory problems, premature death and damage to ecosystems.


The Integrated Pollution and Prevention Control Directive protects citizens by providing 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, with companies themselves bearing responsibility for preventing and reducing any pollution they may cause. The permitting process ensures that the most appropriate pollution-prevention measures are used, and that waste is recycled or disposed of in the least polluting way possible.

The Commission has previously taken 9 Member States to Court for infringements of the IPPC Directive (see IP/10/1579, IP/09/1649, IP/10/1412 and IP/11/305).

For current statistics on infringements in general, see:

For more information on the IPPC Directive and its implementation:

See also MEMO/11/220

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