Differing views on environment

Greece is no longer the «black sheep» of Europe when it comes to environmental issues, according to Public Works and Environment Minister Giorgos Souflias, whose comment yesterday was in complete contrast with the assessment given by WWF, which claimed that the government is far behind the targets it has been set by Brussels. Following a Cabinet meeting, Souflias said that Greece has quadrupled the volume of products it recycles in recent years, that the government has increased the number of companies inspected and fined and that the quality of water is monitored closely. «We are implementing a comprehensive environmental policy,» said Souflias, who has resisted calls for a separate Environment Ministry to be set up. «We have made changes, including the biggest environmental reform that has ever taken place: the national zoning plan.» Souflias went on to say that 4.5 billion euros of European Union funding has been set aside for environmental projects, equal to that which will be allocated for public works. The environmental group WWF Hellas was among those not convinced by Souflias’s arguments, as it presented a report compiled by its legal team, which has been keeping a check on how Greece has been fulfilling its environmental commitments. The report contradicted Souflias, saying that proper environmental inspections are not carried out and that Greece is hiding from EU officials the real number of illegal rubbish dumps in operation across the country. WWF also accused the minister of a lack of transparency with regard to the funds being allocated to the environment. «In actual fact, few steps have been taken since for every landfill that closes down, another one opens up 500 meters away,» said Theodota Nantsou, responsible for policy issues at WWF, adding that the government has failed to comply with directives on the quality of water. WWF lawyers found that Greece has failed to implement 16 EU environmental directives. The deadline for 10 of them has already passed.