European condemnation of Spain for not eliminating 60 illegal landfills
The EU Court criticizes the Government not to apply «coercive measures» to prevent the proliferation of deposits.
Spain has a problem with the management of illegal landfills. And the European Commission has for years urged the Government to solve it. In the event of non-compliance, Brussels sent the EU Court of Justice in 2014 an opinion requesting that Spain be condemned for not fulfilling its obligations. And the Luxembourg Court now concludes that there has been such breach in 60 landfills, the majority in the Canaries (24) and Castile and Leon (26). The court accuses Spain of failing to apply «coercive measures» to prevent the proliferation of such deposits.
It is the second sentence of the Court of Justice of the European Union to Spain for uncontrolled landfills. The former dates from February 2016 and affected another 30 illegal landfills. In both cases, that of a year ago and now, the conviction does not carry a fine. That could come in the future. The process to sanction EU countries is rather slow. First, the European Commission issues a breach of a directive and sends it to the Luxembourg court to certify that there has been such breach. With that ruling in hand, Brussels opens another procedure for the court to end up imposing a sanction on the state that has breached. And he sends it back to Luxembourg to fail. This last step has not yet been reached.
In this last sentence, the European judges conclude that, in the case of those 60 landfills, Spain has not implemented «the necessary measures to ensure that waste management is carried out without endangering human health and without harming the environment And, in particular, without creating risks for water, air or soil, or for fauna and flora. » Furthermore, it has also not been ensured that waste disposed of therein is treated by the municipalities themselves or by a dealer, an entity or a company carrying out treatment operations, as laid down in Directive 2008/98 / EC, Which is the one that has failed Spain.
The court points out that landfills «have operated over a very long period of time in an uncontrolled and illegal manner and that the waste dumped therein has not been treated in order to reduce its negative impact on the environment.» And he criticizes that «such a situation could only be produced by not having adopted the Kingdom of Spain coercive measures».
In addition, the magistrates confirm that in September 2014, when the European Commission issued its opinion on Spain’s breaches, «the six dozen illegal landfills had not been sealed or regenerated yet.
In its claims to prevent being condemned, Spain has used the crisis, according to the sentence. «In a period of serious economic and budgetary difficulties,» the Government argued, «the Spanish authorities have made a huge additional effort to achieve compliance.» The Government also claimed that in some cases, facility owners have filed legal remedies that have stalled the sealing or disposal of landfills.
However, the court recalls in its judgment that «a Member State can not plead a situation under its domestic law to justify a breach of obligations and time-limits under EU law». On the one hand, the judgment states that «costs connected with the full implementation of obligations under a directive can not justify a breach of those obligations». Secondly, «the bringing of appeals (…) does not affect the basis of an allegation made in proceedings for breach». That is why he condemns Spain.
The 2008 directive breached by Spain obliges EU states «to recover or dispose of waste in a way that does not endanger human health or the environment.» The first opinion alerting illegal landfills in Spain dates from October 2008, and the focus was on 300 cases.
After that first warning (a reasoned opinion), the Spanish Government undertook to «close and restore those landfills before the end of 2011». However, in the absence of progress, the Commission issued in September 2014 «an additional reasoned opinion urging Spain to give appropriate treatment to 63 uncontrolled landfills». Many of these landfills, Brussels reported in 2015, were no longer in operation, but «remained a threat to human health and the environment.» Finally, in 2015, the Commission confirmed that «most of the works necessary for the closure, sealing and restoration» of the 60 landfills have not been planned, approved or started, and that it has led Spain to the Court of Justice.