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European Commission - Press release

Commission takes Italy back to the Court and proposes fines

Brussels, 8 December 2016

Commission takes Italy back to the Court and proposes fines.

The European Commission is taking Italy back to the Court of Justice of the EU for its failure to fully and completely comply with the Court's judgment of 2012. The Italian authorities have still to ensure that urban waste water is adequately collected and treated in 80 agglomerations across the country out of the 109 covered by the first judgment to prevent serious risks to human health and the environment.

On 19 July 2012, the Court of Justice of the EU ruled (case C-565/10) that the Italian authorities were violating EU law (Council Directive 91/271/EEC) by not adequately collecting and treating the urban waste water discharged by 109 agglomerations (towns, cities, settlements).

Four years later, this issueremains unaddressed in 80 agglomerations, covering more than six million people. These include areas in seven Italian regions: Abruzzo (one agglomeration), Calabria (13 agglomerations), Campania (seven agglomerations), Friuli-Venezia Giulia (two agglomerations), Liguria (three agglomerations), Puglia (three agglomerations), and Sicilia (51 agglomerations). The lack of adequate collection and treatment systems for these 80 agglomerations poses significant risks to human health, inland waters and the marine environment.

The Commission is calling on the Court of Justice of the EU to impose a lump sum payment of €62,699,421.40. The Commission is also proposing a daily penalty payment of €346,922.40 if full compliance is not achieved by the date when the Court issues its ruling. The final decision on the penalties rests with the Court of Justice of the EU.

Ensuring that all urban areas have waste water treatment facilities working properly can bring considerable benefits to EU citizens, as untreated water poses risks to human health and the environment.


The Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (Council Directive 91/271/EEC)requires Member States to ensure that agglomerations (towns, cities and settlements) properly collect and treat their urban waste water. Untreated waste water can be contaminated with harmful bacteria and viruses and, thus, presents a risk to public health. It also contains nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorous, which can damage freshwaters and the marine environment by promoting the excessive growth of algae that chokes other life, a process known as 'eutrophication'.

Under the Council Directive 91/271/EEC, towns and cities with a population equivalent of more than 15,000 inhabitants, which discharge urban waste water into receiving waters, arenot considered to be sensitive areas were required to have systems for collecting and treating their waste water in place as of 31 December 2000. It follows that Member States must ensure that urban waste waters are adequately collected and treated before they are discharged into the environment.

Under Article 260 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), if a Member State has not taken the necessary measures to comply with a judgment of the Court of Justice, the Commission may refer the matter to the Court of Justice. The decision on a second referral to the Court of Justice on the basis of Art. 260 of TFEU must always be accompanied by a proposal for a penalty and/or lump sum payment. Calculation of the penalty payment is based on a method that takes account of the seriousness of the infringement, having regard to the importance of the rules breached and the impact of the infringement on general and particular interests, its duration and the size of the Member State, with a view to ensuring that the penalty itself has a deterrent effect. Rulings by the Court are binding on all EU Member States as well as on the EU institutions themselves.

Therefore, the second referral to the Court is necessary to ensure compliance in these 80 remaining agglomerations, given the very slow progress and the repeated failure to meet the pre-announced deadlines. Other Member States (Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg and Portugal) have already been subject to penalties in similar cases and Spain was referred to Court for a second time and might also face fines.

For More Information

-   General information on infringements proceedings in the areas of Environment.

-   On the key decisions of the December infringements package, please refer to the fullMEMO/16/4211.

-   On the general infringements procedure, see MEMO/12/12(an info graph).

-   On the EU infringements procedure.


Press contacts:

General public inquiries: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 67 89 10 11 or by email

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