European landfills fine smaller than feared

The European Court of Justice on Tuesday imposed a 10-million-euro fine on Greece for failing to close down dozens of illegal landfills and comply with European waste management directives and ordered the country to pay an additional 14.5 million euros for every six months that the illegal dumps remain operative.

However, the verdict was significantly milder than the authorities had anticipated. A prosecutor had proposed to the Strasbourg-based court that Greece pay a 22-million-euro fine for violating EU waste laws.

Also the six-monthly fines are to be reduced by 40,000 euros for each landfill that Greece closes. With the first six-monthly fine not due until June 2015, Greek authorities have an opportunity to close down the remaining illegal landfills and avert additional penalties.

The last time Greece was fined for failing to meet EU waste management directives regarding landfills was in 2000 when it was obliged to pay 5.4 million euros for just one dump – Kouroupito in the Cretan prefecture of Hania.

Responding to the verdict Tuesday, the Environment Ministry said authorities would continue efforts to “reduce to zero” the number of illegal landfills in Greece. According to ministry figures, 39 illegal landfills are operating in the country, including 21 on islands. Dozens more are in the process of being replaced by sanitary facilities.