Mon. Jul 15th, 2024
Brussels, 12 November 2021
Overview by policy areaIn its regular package of infringement decisions, the European Commission pursues legal action against Member States for failing to comply with their obligations under EU law. These decisions, covering various sectors and EU policy areas, aim to ensure the proper application of EU law for the benefit of citizens and businesses.The key decisions taken by the Commission are presented below and grouped by policy area. The Commission is also closing 46 cases in which the issues with the Member States concerned have been solved without the Commission needing to pursue the procedure further.For more information on the EU infringement procedure, see the fullQ&A. For more detail on all decisions taken, consult the infringement decisions’ register.


 

1. Environment and fisheries

Environment

Waste: Commission calls on BULGARIA, CROATIA, GREECE, ROMANIA and SLOVAKIA to improve their treatment of waste

The Commission is calling on Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Romania and Slovakia to correctly apply the Landfill Directive (Directive 1999/31/EC) and the Waste Framework Directive (Directive 2008/98/EC). The Landfill Directive sets standards for landfills to prevent adverse effects on human health, water, soil and air. Under this Directive, Member States must take measures to ensure that only waste that has been subject to treatment is landfilled. The European Green Deal and theZero Pollution Action Plan set a zero pollution ambition for the EU, which benefits public health, the environment and climate neutrality.

In its judgment of 15 October 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that, before landfilling, waste must be treated in the most appropriate way to reduce negative impacts on the environment and human health as far as possible. Following this ruling, in 2015, the Commission launched a study to investigate the landfilling of untreated non-hazardous municipal solid waste in Member States.

In Bulgaria, the study revealed shortcomings in all visited sites. In 52 landfills, waste is not subject to treatment that includes an adequate selection of waste streams and stabilisation of organic waste. Also, the network of installations for treatment of waste before landfilling for mixed municipal waste and bio-waste is insufficient.

In Croatia, the study analysed five landfills of non-hazardous waste in five different counties. The study revealed shortcomings in all visited sites and that municipal waste is being landfilled without any treatment. The landfills subject to investigation are lacking infrastructure capacities and so are the counties where these landfills are located.

For Greece, the study revealed a lack of sufficient treatment facilities in the country, insufficient separate collection in relation to glass, metals, and biodegradable waste, and that the majority of organic waste is landfilled without prior stabilisation.

For Romania, the study revealed shortcomings in all visited sites and that most of the waste is landfilled without any treatment. The landfills subject to investigation are lacking infrastructure capacities and so are the counties where these landfills are located. In addition, in the case of Romania, following another investigation, the Commission found that landfills located in Bucharest do not respect EU legislation requirements as these either do not hold a permit in line with the Waste Framework and the Landfill Directives.

In Slovakia, shortcomings were found in all visited sites. Waste is being landfilled without appropriate treatment in 111 Slovak landfills as they do not have sufficient installations to ensure selection of different fractions of waste and the stabilisation of organic waste. Also, Slovakia did not correctly transpose the pre-treatment obligation into its national legislation and the network of installations for treatment of waste is insufficient.

Therefore, the Commission is sending letters of formal notice to the Member States concerned, which have two months to respond and address the shortcomings raised by the Commission. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to issue a reasoned opinion.


 

Environmental Impact Assessment: Commission calls on PORTUGAL to enhance national rules on assessment of the environmental impact of public and private projects

The Commission is calling on Portugal to address shortcomings in its transposition of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) (Directive 2011/92/EU) into national law. The European Green Deal stresses the importance of Europe remaining on track to meet its environmental objectives. Portuguese law provides that in certain cases a lack of decision by the EIA authority means that the project will not be subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment. However, the Directive sets up a specific procedure to ensure that the competent authority makes its determination in the light of the information available and the screening criteria. A tacit negative screening determination therefore goes against the objective of the EIA Directive. In addition, any decision not to screen must be made public and justified, an obligation which would not be met in such cases. Moreover, Portuguese law is not in line as regards the information that has to be made publicly available or the need to agree on a reasonable time-frame for the duration of the consultation period in case of projects with transboundary impact. Portugal has not addressed these shortcomings following the formal notice given by the Commission. The Commission is therefore sending a reasoned opinion to Portugal, giving it two months to remedy the situation. Otherwise, the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.


 

Drinking water: Commission decides to refer IRELAND to the Court of Justice of the European Union over unsafe drinking water

The Commission has decided to referIrelandto the Court of Justice of the European Union for failure to comply with the requirements of the Drinking Water Directive (Directive 98/83/EC). The Directive requires Member States to ensure that water intended for human consumption is wholesome and clean, and does not pose a potential danger to human health. The Commission is referring Ireland to the Court of Justice as in a number of water supply zones across the whole country, the level of the chemical substance trihalomethanes (THMs) in drinking water have long exceeded the parametric value established in the Drinking Water Directive. Whilst the Commission welcomes the fact that Ireland has made progress in addressing elevated levels of THMs in the drinking water, today, more than three years after the opening of the infringement case, a number of water supply zones still do not comply with the requirements of the Drinking Water Directive. The Commission is therefore referring Ireland to the Court of Justice of the European Union. More information is available in thepress release.


 

Air quality: Commission decides to refer PORTUGAL to Court of Justice of the European Union for high levels of nitrogen dioxide

The Commission has decided to refer Portugal to the Court of Justice of the European Union over poor air quality caused by high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2). When the limit values set by the EU’s ambient air quality legislation (Directive 2008/50/EC) are exceeded, Member States are required to adopt air quality plans to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to keep the duration of the exceedance period as short as possible. The European Green Dealand the Zero Pollution Action Planemphasise the importance of cutting air pollution, which is among the key factors negatively affecting human health. Portugal has exceeded the annual nitrogen dioxide (NO2) limit value in the air quality zones ‘Lisboa Norte’, ‘Porto Litoral’, and ‘Entre Douro e Minho’. It has also failed to adopt appropriate measures to keep the exceedance period as short as possible. The Commission therefore considers that efforts by the Portuguese authorities have to date been unsatisfactory and insufficient, and is referring Portugal to the Court of Justice of the European Union. More information is available in thepress release.


 

EU Commission decides to refer BULGARIA to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to protect and manage its Natura 2000 network sites

The Commission has decided to refer Bulgaria to the Court of Justice of the European Union for not respecting its obligations under the Habitats Directive (Directive 92/43/EEC). Within six years from the listing of their Sites of Community Importance, Member States must designate them as Special Areas of Conservation. The European Green Deal and the European Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 set the objective for the EU to halt biodiversity loss by preserving our natural sites and restoring damaged ecosystems to good ecological status. Bulgaria has not yet designated 194 out of 229 Sites of Community Importance as Special Areas of Conservation within the required time limit and has failed to set site-specific conservation objectives and measures for these sites in breach of the Habitats Directive. The Commission considers that efforts by the Bulgarian authorities have to date been unsatisfactory and insufficient and is therefore referring Bulgaria to the Court of Justice of the European Union. More information is available in the press release.


 

Landfills: EU Commission refers ROMANIA to the Court of Justice of the European Union over its failure to comply with the Court judgment

The Commission has decided to refer Romania back to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to fully comply with the Court judgment of 18 October 2018, which found that Romania failed to meet its obligations under the Landfill Directive (Directive 1999/31/EC). According to this judgment, by 16 July 2009, Romania was obliged to close and rehabilitate all landfills that did not obtain a permit to operate. The Court found that Romania had failed to comply with this obligation with respect to 68 landfills. The Landfill Directive aims to provide measures, procedures and guidance to prevent or reduce as far as possible negative effects on the environment from landfilling of waste. The European Green Deal and the Zero Pollution Action Plan set a zero pollution ambition for the EU. Full implementation of the standards enshrined in EU legislation is important to effectively protect human health and safeguard the natural environment. Three years after the judgment, 42 landfills are still not closed. To comply with the Court judgment, Romania is expected to take all the necessary measures in order to ensure that these landfills are closed, sealed and rehabilitated as soon as possible due to the health and environmental risks they entail. This is a second referral to Court which may result in penalties for the time elapsed after the first judgement until achieving compliance. More information is available in the press release.


 

Nature: Commission decides to refer MALTA to the Court of Justice of the European Union over finch trapping

Today, the Commission decided to refer Malta to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to correctly apply the Birds Directive (Directive 2009/147/EC) by incorrectly applying a derogation regime and authorising the trapping of protected finches for research purposes. The Birds Directive requires a general system of protection for wild birds and allows derogations on hunting and trapping only subject to strict conditions. These are key requirements to protect biodiversity across the EU. The European Green Deal and the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 both indicate that it is crucial for the EU to halt its biodiversity loss by preserving natural sites and restoring damaged ecosystems to good ecological status. The issue of finch trapping was already subject to infringement proceedings in the past, leading to a ruling of the Court of Justice in 2018 declaring a similar trapping derogation unlawful. Subsequently, Malta repealed the relevant derogation regime and committed not to reopen it. However, in 2020, Malta re-authorised finch trapping, this time invoking another derogation provision, namely under research purposes. The Commission considers that, even though the declared objective is ‘research’, several elements indicate that the scheme – in practice – allows for a large number of birds to be captured without being reported, contrary to the strict conditions for derogations set by the Birds Directive. The Commission therefore sent a letter of formal notice to Malta in December 2020, followed by a reasoned opinion in June 2021. Although Malta repealed the incriminated legislation in early October, it did not allay the Commission’s concerns: the trapping licences for the 2021 season had already been issued on the basis of the repealed 2020 framework, and new rules have been swiftly adopted with only minor changes compared to the previous legal regime. The Commission therefore considers the reply by the Maltese authorities to both the letter of formal notice and the reasoned opinion as unsatisfactory, and is therefore referring Malta to the Court of Justice of the European Union. More information is in the press release.

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