EU shames Greece over rubbish tips

BRUSSELS – Greece and Spain share the shame of having the largest number of illegal waste dumps in the European Union, illustrating once again in the worst possible way Greece’s permanent inability to protect its environment. The European Commission bestowed this dubious distinction at a seminar aimed at shaming governments into applying environmental laws. Both Greece and Spain have at least 10 waste dumps that break EU rules aimed at reducing air, soil and water pollution stemming from garbage dumps. But it is clear that because of the great difference in size between the two countries, Greece bears the heavier burden of shame over something so basic as the protection of the environment and public health from the threat posed by garbage. Greece is also the first member of the EU to be fined for persistently ignoring directives to close the Kouroupitos landfill near Hania on Crete. It had to pay 20,000 euros a day for every day it ignored a 2000 ruling against the landfill, out of a total of over 5 million euros. The most serious violations in Greece, as the Commission said yesterday, concern the dumps at Epitalio in the Peloponnesian province of Elis, and at Pera Galinous, at Iraklion on Crete, over which Greece is already facing the European Court. There are also various illegal dumps at Paeania, Halandri, Aigion, Ftelia near Arta, Ierisso in Halkidiki, at Alyki on Paros, Maroulas near Rethymnon and on Skiathos. For these, the legal process has begun but has not yet reached court. Most of them are in important tourist areas, while Halandri borders Athenian suburbs that will host Olympic events. Italy follows Greece and Spain with eight cases of landfills that do not meet EU guidelines, followed by Ireland with five, and then Britain, France and Germany with one case each. They all face legal action in the European Court. «Our citizens are concerned about landfills. We receive a steady flow of complaints from people worried about the impact that illegal or badly managed landfills can have on their health,» said Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstroem.