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Romania taken to court, as UK warned by European Commission over breaches

Romania taken to court, as UK warned by European Commission over breaches
The European Commission (EC) is taking Romania to the European Court of Justice for failing to close and rehabilitate 68 illegal landfills, which it says represent a serious risk to human health.

Under the EU Landfill Directive, member states must recover and dispose of waste in a manner that does not endanger human health and the environment, a provision that prohibits the abandonment, dumping or uncontrolled disposal of waste.

After becoming a full member of the EU in 2007, Romania was told that it had until July 2009 to close and its substandard municipal and industrial landfills, but after several warnings from the EC, it has yet to take measures against 68 non-compliant sites.

The EC sent an ‘additional reasoned opinion’ to the Romanian government in September 2015, noting that it still had to close and restore 109 landfills, offering available EU funds as a tool for solving the problem. The landfills, according to Romania, were no longer in operation but still posed a human and environmental threat, and though some progress has been made in the intervening period, 68 are still deemed unacceptable by the commission.

To speed up remediation of the sites, the EC is taking Romania to court.

In September, Greece was fined €10 million (£8.5 million) by the European Court of Justice after it failed to uphold several EU laws related to the disposal of waste, seven years after first being warned about non-compliance.

As well as the initial fine, Greece will be made to pay an extra €30,000 (£25,000) for every day that it takes to adopt a plan for the management of hazardous waste and establish a network of disposal facilities to treat it safely for both the environment and public health.

UK among those threatened with court action over air quality breaches

Also this week, the EC warned the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy over their continued breaches of air pollution limits, stating that it may decide to take the matter to the Court of Justice if the countries fail to act within two months.

More than 400,000 citizens die prematurely in the EU each year as a result of poor air quality. Millions more suffer from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases caused by air pollution. Persistently high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) caused almost 70 ,00 premature deaths in Europe in 2013, which was almost three times the number of deaths by road traffic accidents in the same year.

The statement from the EC said that nitrogen dioxide limits, usually breached because of road traffic, were being exceeded in 16 zones of the UK, including London, Birmingham, Leeds and Glasgow.

Germany had 28 breaches, France 19, Italy 12 and Spain three.

Possible measures to lower polluting emissions suggested by the commission, which would also accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy, include reducing overall traffic volumes, changing the fuels used, switching to electric cars and/or adapting driving behaviour. In this context, it says, reducing emissions from diesel-powered vehicles is an important step towards achieving compliance with EU air quality standards.

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