NEWS

Local councils to foot dumps bill

The government is threatening to withhold state funding from local authorities if they do not raze illegal landfills, it emerged on Tuesday as the latest European Commission deadline for Greece to close down its unofficial dumps expired.

According to legislation to be submitted in Parliament early next year, local authorities that fail to demolish illegal landfills will be deprived of the funding that they are due and which will instead go toward paying off a looming European Union fine, Deputy Interior Minister Theodora Tzakri told Kathimerini. Also the mayors in question will face disciplinary action, she said. ?If the country is fined for its landfills, then the responsible municipalities will pay,? she said. ?Any mayors who fail to comply will face extremely serious penalties,? Tzakri added. According to the deputy minister, local authorities have no excuse for failing to comply as state funding has been earmarked for the construction of sanitary landfills to replace all illegal dumps.

If the government fails to raze dozens of illegal dumps that continue to operate around the country, it will be indicted to the European Court and Greece will be issued with heavy financial penalties which it is in no position to pay in the midst of the current debt crisis. Last week the government responded to the Commission?s second letter of warning – the last step before legal action – with a pledge to destroy most of the remaining landfills in the first half of 2011. According to sources, the Environment Ministry vowed to close 18 landfills in the first quarter of 2011 and 63 in the second. Another 75 landfills located in the Peloponnese will be closed by September, the sources said.

Meanwhile, in Thessaloniki municipal authorities pledged to clean up by Thursday thousands of tons of trash that have accumulated on the streets of the northern port city as dozens of garbage collection trucks remain out of service. Outgoing Mayor Vassilis Papageorgopoulos blamed regional authorities for failing to repair some 35 trucks.