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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Greece Dinged Again for Ongoing Waste Woes

(CN) - Greece's ongoing failure to implement EU rules for urban wastewater earned the beleaguered nation an $11.4 million fine from the European Court of Justice on Thursday.

The nation also faces fines of $4.1 million every six months until it fully complies with EU law, the court said in a ruling that was not made available in English.

EU urban wastewater rules require that member states must have collection and treatment systems in place for every area that produces waste equal to what is produced by 15,000 people.

The European Commission found that 24 such areas in Greece had no systems in place to collect or treat the wastewater, and in 2006 sued for failing to implement the directive. In 2007, the EU high court ruled that 23 of the areas were out of compliance and ordered Greece to build the necessary facilities.

In 2014, the commission found that while Greece had made progress six of the 23 areas remained without proper wastewater collection and treatment facilities. The regulatory arm of the European Union asked the high court to fine the Hellenic Republic $60,000 for every day of noncompliance since the 2007 ruling.

On Thursday, the Luxembourg-based court agreed that the six areas were still out of compliance and said that sanctions were warranted - in the form of a periodic fine for breaking the law and a fixed fine to ensure compliance in other matters in the future.

But the high court more than halved the periodic fine requested by the commission, acknowledging both Greece's progress toward full compliance and its ability to pay given the severe economic problems it has faced since 2007.

The court also reduced the fixed fine demanded by the commission for the same reasons, by roughly $6 million.

This is not the first time the EU high court has addressed Greece's waste problem.

In 2014, the court found that officials hurt turtle habitat by turning a blind eye to the uncontrolled management of a landfill site on the popular tourist island of Zakynthos in the Ionian Sea.

That same year, the court fined Greece to pay $12.4 million plus penalties for failing to comply with a court-ordered closure and cleanup of nearly 300 illegal landfills littering Greek territory.

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