Rush to raze dumps before checks

The government is bracing for a visit by European Commission officials, due in Greece this week to inspect the country’s progress in demolishing illegal landfills, as a huge fine looms. Over the past few months, Interior Ministry officials have been urging regional and municipal officials to redouble their efforts to destroy dozens of illegal landfills which continue to operate in different parts of the country. Some progress has been made but officials failed to meet the EU’s July 16 deadline to close down all the illegal dumps. As a result, Greece now faces a daily fine of 34,000 euros for each illegal landfill. It is unclear whether the debt-ridden government will be able to negotiate another reprieve from visiting inspectors. Meanwhile, sources told Kathimerini that government officials have been encouraging local authority officials to make an eleventh-hour effort to close down the dumps. Last week, the Interior and Environment ministries heralded a joint initiative to destroy the remaining illegal dumps and replace them with sanitary landfills. Ministry sources complain that mayors and regional leaders have avoided taking action due to local authority elections due in the fall. The construction of sanitary landfills is deeply unpopular with local residents whose votes authorities want to garner. Last week the Ombudsman presented the government with a report highlighting the shortfalls that have created Greece’s waste management problems and proposed possible solutions. In his report, Giorgos Kaminis listed several shortcomings, including problematic procedures for the allocation of sites for sanitary landfills. He also complained that fines are rarely imposed on municipal authorities for allowing illegal landfills to continue to operate.

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