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EU threatens Italy with court action over rubbish crisis

A resident riding a scooter passes by mountains of uncollected trash, 28 January 2008 in Naples. The southern Italian city and surrounding region has been under mounds of rubbish since landfill sites reached capacity and garbage collectors refused to continue their work. At the origin of the escalating problem are mafia-controlled landfills, where toxic waste from around the country is thought to be dumped illegally in order to avoid paying for safer disposal. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) Jan 29, 2008
The European Commission will threaten Italy Wednesday with court action if the authorities there do not resolve the rubbish crisis in Naples, an EU official said.

Commissioners, at their regular weekly meeting in Brussels, are due to issue a "reasoned opinion" on the matter, the final step before turning to the European Court of Justice, which could impose fines, the official said Tuesday.

The southern Italian city and surrounding region has been under mounds of rubbish since late last month when landfill sites reached capacity and garbage collectors went on strike.

Just over 3,500 tonnes of uncollected garbage still clogged the streets of Naples on January 22, -- slightly down from 7,100 tonnes the previous week, when the army first began intervening in the strike.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas has been particularly scathing about Rome's handling of the crisis, which sparked protests and clashes with police.

"What we are witnessing these days in Naples is not a crisis coming out of the blue," he told members of the European Parliament on January 15.

"It is the culmination of a more than 14-year-old process of insufficient implementation of European waste legislation for which Italy has repeatedly been condemned by the European Court of Justice."

He said the EU's executive body "is ready to pursue its legal proceedings against Italy. Continuing breaches of (EU) environmental law in Campania must be brought to an end."

Many of the landfills in Campania are controlled by the regional Camorra mafia, who make a lucrative business out of subverting waste-handling procedures and shipping in industrial waste from the north.

Since 1994, when the government decreed an "emergency situation" in the region, several dumps infiltrated by the mafia have been closed and companies investigated, though none has been convicted.

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