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Stavros DIMAS

Member of the European Commission, responsible for environment

Waste situation in the region of Campania

EP plenary session, Strasbourg
Tuesday 15 January 2008

Mr/Mrs President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

The waste piling up in the streets of Naples and other nearby cities, impressively documented by press reports has reached an estimated and incredible amount of 100.000 tons since 21 December 2007. This and the disastrous implications of illegal waste disposal for the health of the local residents and for the environment are deeply worrying.

What we are witnessing these days in Naples is not a crisis coming out of the blue. It is the culmination of a more than 14 year old process of insufficient implementation of European waste legislation for which Italy has repeatedly been condemned by the European Court of Justice.

Frequently cited speculations about the role of organised crime should not be used to hide the fact that the more direct cause for the waste crises appears to be the lack of action and the lack of political will to adopt the measures necessary for solving the waste management problem.

When the Commission became first aware of the critical situation of a complete breakdown of waste collection and disposal in Campania in spring 2007, it launched an infringement procedure against Italy for breach of Community legislation on waste. The Commission has since been monitoring the situation closely including by following an invitation from the Italian government to assess the situation on the spot.

Clearly the Italian authorities are now expected to take immediate measures to remove the waste from the streets.

However, as this new waste crisis demonstrates, it is not enough simply to remove the waste from the streets. It is fundamental that the necessary actions are complemented by the adoption and, most importantly, by the effective implementation of long-term strategic measures, such as a sufficient network of waste treatment facilities being fully compliant with standards set by Community law accompanied by a coherent long-term waste management strategy with a view to boosting recycling and separate waste collection.

The Decreto-Legge No 61 adopted in May 2007 to solve the waste crises did not achieve its objective. The emergency plan announced by Prime Minister Prodi on 8 January is a more ambitious step in this direction, but a crucial element remains the timeframe for action, which must be prompt – we will continue to follow the implementation of the actual measures by the Italian authorities closely.

The Commission will continue putting pressure on the Italian Government to solve the crisis and it is ready to pursue its legal proceedings against Italy. Continuing breaches of Community environmental law in Campania must be brought to an end in full compliance with Community law.

Although the situation appears difficult, it must be possible for Italian authorities to comply with Community waste legislation. I am sure that useful examples can be drawn not only from other Member States but also from other Italian regions which, through a mix of various forms of waste reduction, collection and disposal have found solutions to the need to dispose of waste in a controlled way.

Mr/Mrs President, Honourable Members,

We are concerned that the waste situation in Campania is worsening despite the actions taken by Italian authorities in 2007.

It is essential that Italian authorities besides putting in place immediate measures to tackle the current crisis, intensify their efforts for putting in place a structure that enables the Campania region to ensure a long term sustainable waste management which is fully in line with European waste legislation.

I am convinced that this time crisis management must lead to a real turn around in waste management policy in order to avoid further risks for human health and for the environment.

Therefore any action to be taken for the future will have to lead to an effectively implemented strategy focussing not only on establishing a sufficient network of waste treatment facilities. It is of equal importance to provide the necessary structures for separate waste collection, recycling and avoidance of waste fully respecting the waste hierarchy within which dumping of waste remains the least desired option.

Any new waste management plan in that sense must not remain on paper as we have seen it in the past but needs to be strictly implemented. The present waste disaster could be taken as an opportunity to demonstrate Italy's capacity of turning the Campania region into a best practice example of proper waste management.

The Commission as the guardian of the Treaty will continue the infringement procedure against Italy started in June 2007 for breach of Community waste legislation. It is ready to take further legal steps should the current breaches of Community legislation continue, using all available measures under the Treaty, including the possibility of imposing fines under Art. 228 of the Treaty.

Apart from this, however, my services are ready to assist Italy in any manner deemed necessary and helpful for finding and implementing a long term sustainable solution to the current waste management problem.

Thank you for your attention.

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