Greece faces court penalties

BRUSSELS – The European Commission yesterday announced more than 100 cases for which it is taking or is threatening to take Greece to the European Court. The most important relate to road safety, specifically the mandatory installation of electronic speed recorders on all trucks and buses, and the issue of opening hours for optical stores. Regarding optical stores, Greece has already been condemned and following yesterday’s decision the Commission is threatening Athens with a fine for what is effectively a ban on the operation of optical stores by foreign companies while there is also a threat of a fine for the non-recognition of general physicians’ degrees awarded by foreign universities. The threat of a multimillion-euro fine hangs over Greece on the slot machine issue, as the country is referred to court again after the ban back in 2002. Last year the court had found Greece guilty of prohibiting any form of «electric, electromechanical or electronic» recreation, which could turn into a game of chance, as has happened with the slot machines. Seeing that Greece has failed to comply with the decision, Brussels now wants a fine to be imposed daily until the country’s full compliance. Greece is also being referred to the court, albeit without a threat of a fine at this stage, over the issue of electronic speed recorders in trucks and buses, which ensure adherence not only to speed limits but also to rules concerning working and rest hours for drivers, as it is very difficult to tamper with such recorders. Yet Greece has not yet taken a series of essential steps for implementation of the measure, particularly regarding the secure distribution of the special cards which record the data. As a result, trucks and buses licensed after May 1, 2006 cannot legally travel beyond Greek borders. The Commission is also threatening action against Greece over provisions on the working and rest hours of professional drivers. Other cases concern alleged irregularities in the allocation of six parts of the project for the upgrading of the Seikh Sou forest in Thessaloniki, a case dating back to at least 2003, as well as the incompatibility of Greek and European rules on the safety of indoor natural gas installations, the poor construction and operation of the Phyli landfill, and a lack of measures to limit deadly particles from car fuel.