In two consecutive decisions, Italian courts ordered in August the closure of the largest steel factory in the EU: Ilva of Taranto. The local magistrate described Ilva as an “environmental disaster”, due to its high emissions of a lethal mix of pollutants into the atmosphere. In the course of one of the country’s major environmental scandals, seven top managers of the Ilva Taranto plant were arrested, on charges of serious environmental damage and extortion. According to recent data, the rate of cancer deaths in the area is 15% higher than the national average, a problem attributed to the emissions of Ilva.
The court order caused the angry reaction of many unions, which claim that 12,000 workers will lose their jobs, thus causing a major blow to the depressed economy of the region. The Italian Government offered political support to the demand of the unions. Environment Minister Corrado Clini stated that closing the factory would favour China’s steel industry and Health Minister Renato Balduzzi reportedly noted that unemployment is dangerous for people’s health. According to PM Mario Monti, closing the factory would cost Italy’s battered economy an estimated €8 million.
In the end of November, the Government passed a decree allowing the plant to remain in operation during the ordered clean-up process.