OPINION

No time to waste

Greece could soon be punished again with a hefty fine for breaching European Union legislation on landfills. In 2000, Greece was ordered to pay nearly 5 million euros for violating community law. The now-defunct rubbish dump in the Kouroupitos area, on western Crete, sums up the state’s foot-dragging on a case that concerns not only the protection of the environment but also the health of the public. The solution reached by the authorities concerning the infamous Kouroupitos dump was to cover the site with dirt and move the landfill to another area. But the rain washed away the dirt deposited on the site, and the old problems re-emerged. This was not an isolated incident. The Kouroupitos dump is only the tip of the iceberg. After many years of debates and government meetings, even the Greek capital lacks a modern waste disposal and treatment installation. Greece hosts more than 1,500 illegal dump sites. Regrettably, Greece’s progress in that respect is reminiscent of Third World countries. And the European Commission’s first recommendations and warnings came many years ago. Greece has no excuse for the current situation. True, the bulk of the blame lies with PASOK’s administrations, but that is no excuse for a conservative government that has shown little determination to solve the problem during its first 21 months in power. As a result, Greece is once again being taken to the European Court and faces the specter of yet another massive fine that will have to be shouldered by Greek taxpayers. Given the current circumstances, there is no excuse and not a single day to be lost. That means that Greece must finally launch the construction of a modern waste treatment facility in order to curb the risks posed by the current practice – basically just temporary waste storage. A state with some basic respect for its citizens would set the construction of a waste processing unit as an immediate priority – without need for an EU stick. The dump issue now borders on the farcical. Even at this time, the state must take speedy measures to wash away the shame.