In its recent judgment on the C-584/14 case “European Commission v Hellenic Republic”, the European Court of Justice ruled that Greece has violated key EU laws on hazardous waste management. The Court imposed heavy financial sanctions on the Hellenic Republic: a lump sum of 10 million euros, plus a penalty payment of 30,000 for every day of delay in complying with the decision.
In the arguments put forward by the parties, the Commission notes that the dire situation of the Greek economy does not allow investors and waste producing industries to invest in proper hazardous waste management. For this reason, the Commission has proposed that the Greek authorities undertake the responsibility for the establishment of the necessary landfills for hazardous waste. The Court decided that member states cannot use fiscal or political problems as a legal excuse and that Greece had simply and unjustifiably missed the deadline to comply with its judgment of 10 September 2009 in Commission v Greece (C‑286/08).
The necessary funding for the construction of the hazardous waste landfills in Greece had been secured since the 1990’s through the EU’s Structural Funds. According to the arguments of the parties, 33% of the hazardous waste produced in the country is not managed appropriately and in compliance with the rules set out in the directives 2006/12/EC, 91/689/EEC and 1999/31/EC.
According to the Court, “in the first place, the importance of the rules of EU law which have been infringed, in the second place, the consequences of that infringement for public and private interests, such as, in particular, the high risk environmental pollution, the detrimental effects for health and the proper functioning of economic activity of the country, in the third place, the attenuating circumstance consisting in the creation of specific criteria for the selection of appropriate sites and of the annual inventory of hazardous waste, but also of the aggravating circumstance relating to the small amount of progress made so far and to the hazardousness of the waste, in the fourth place, the clarity of the provisions infringed and, in the last place, the repeated unlawful conduct of the Hellenic Republic concerning compliance with EU rules in the area of waste, a coefficient for seriousness of 10 is appropriate”.