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EU court advisor supports pollution fines against foreign airlines

The EU Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] advocate general Juliane Kokott on Thursday issued an opinion stating that an EU law forcing foreign airlines using EU airports to pay fees for greenhouse gas emissions is lawful [opinion, text]. Kokott said that the carbon emission fees do not violate international law, as several US and Canadian airlines have argued. The airlines filed for judicial review of an EU Directive 2008/101/EC [PDF], which announced that airlines would have to comply with heightened emissions regulations while using EU airports beginning on January 1, 2012. The airlines argued that the directive violated the Chicago Convention, the Kyoto Protocol and the Open Skies Agreement [PDFs]. However, Kokott said that the directive does not violate the international agreements, noting that the EU is not a party to the Chicago Convention. The opinion of the advocate general is advisory and not binding on the ECJ, which will subsequently rule on the issue.

The EU has played an active role in environmental issues. Last month, the ECJ ruled [JURIST report] that France's ban on the cultivation of a genetically modified (GM) maize was illegal. Although France has the right to impose a ban on GM maize, the court stated that France acted illegally by not following proper EU protocol [Reuters report]. In order to impose a ban, EU members must demonstrate that the product poses a serious risk to the environment or human or animal health, and notify the European Commission [official website] authorities of the need to take emergency measures. In March, ECJ Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi issued an opinion [JURIST report] stating that a French ban on cultivating genetically modified (GM) crops was illegal. The use of GM organisms, whether through experimentation or cultivation, is governed by EU law.

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