(CN) - As a punishment for Italy's failure to collect garbage safely, the European Commission can withhold paying it regional development funds, the EU General Court ruled Friday.
European regulators originally approved a 10-year, $122 million plan to use regional development funds for a comprehensive -and environmentally friendly - waste-disposal system in Italy's Campania region in 2000. EU commissioners use the regional development funds to redress regional imbalances and promote local development.
In 2007, however, the commission found that Italian authorities had failed to create an adequate network of waste disposal facilities in Campania and developed no oversight to protect human health and the environment. The General Court of the European Union upheld the commission's findings in 2010.
As a result of Italy's infringements, regulators refused to make further payments to the Campania system from the EU's regional development fund. Italy sued, claiming that the commission failed to establish a link between infringements of EU waste laws and its obligation to pay its share of the garbage network.
The General Court nevertheless concluded Friday that the commission sufficiently established a link between Campania's environmental failures and its refusal to make repayments. Specifically, Italian authorities failed to set up a differentiated collection system - separating compostables and recycling from landfill waste - as required by both the funding agreement and EU law, according to the ruling.
"The commission informed the Italian authorities of the inferences that it intended to draw from the infringement procedure by way of consequences for the financing of regional development in the context of implementing the Campania OP," the judges wrote. "In that letter, the commission stated that it could no longer make 'interim payments to cover the repayment of expenditure incurred in connection with [regional development concerning the regional waste management and disposal system referred to in the infringement procedure.'"
"In that regard, the commission stated that 'waste management as a whole [was] unsatisfactory, given the need to ensure proper waste collection and disposal and, accordingly, to ensure also the actions listed in the agreement such as those connected with facilities for waste storage, treatment and disposal, facilities for the recovery of the wet and dry parts, the final implementation of landfills, in addition to differentiated collection ... and the sectorial plans and programs,' they added. "The commission therefore concluded, in essence, that any payment application in respect of expenditure incurred in connection with regional development funds submitted after the date when the Campania region failed to fulfill its obligations under EU waste law would be unacceptable."
Regulators adequately notified Italian authorities of both the infringement and its consequences, the Luxembourg-based court concluded in dismissing the claims. Italy has two months to lodge an appeal - limited to points of law only - with the Court of Justice, Europe's highest court.
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