EU: Italy "in race against time" to escape fines on Naples garbage
Jan 25, 2012, 17:29 GMT
Brussels - Italy was 'in a race against time' to avoid crippling European Union fines for failing to deal with the Naples garbage crisis, the bloc's top environmental official said Wednesday.
Because the EU Court of Justice already condemned Italy's failure to address the situation in 2010, the bloc's executive, the European Commission, can ask judges to punish the country for failing to act on that ruling.
'To be frank and clear we are preparing a court referral, which I am ready to look (at) again in case some conditions are met,' EU Environment Minister Janez Potocnik said in Brussels, after meeting Italian Environment Minister Corrado Clini.
'In a way, we are in a race against time,' Potocnik stressed.
Last week, Clini said that Italy risked having to pay a 500-million-euro (649-million-dollar) daily fine until the situation was fixed.
Italian authorities recently adopted new waste management plans that foresee a return to normality in Naples and the surrounding Campania region by the end of 2014.
Potocnik said a separate plan to deal with toxic waste was still missing, but had been told by Clini that it would be ready in March. In practice, the EU executive is willing to wait until June before launching court proceedings, a senior official later added.
It was also likely take a couple of years for the EU court to deliberate. If Italy were to solve the situation before a verdict, the whole procedure could be scrapped, the source said.
Potocnik also indicated that he was willing to help by unfreezing part of the 145 million euros in EU funding that had been blocked as punishment for the garbage crisis.
But the money would only be released if it was used for recycling and other virtuous schemes. 'We would not finance landfills,' the commissioner warned.
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