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European Commission refers Greece and Sweden to ECJ for environmental violations

The European Commission (EC) [official website] on Thursday announced that it is referring Sweden and Greece [press releases] to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] for failing to comply with previous judgments regarding environmental issues. The EC found that Greece failed to comply with a 2005 ruling [opinion, in French] that required the country to take steps to either close down or rehabilitate hundreds of illegal landfills within its borders. According to reports submitted to the EC, around 78 illegal landfills are still in operation in violation of the EU waste legislation [99/31/EC, PDF]. With that reference the EC suggested that, after the second ruling, a daily penalty payment of €71,193 should be implemented, such a penalty possibly being reduced every time an illegal landfill is closed and rehabilitated until Greece is in full compliance with the judgment. Regarding Sweden, the EC found that the country has failed to comply with a 2012 order to license two major industrial installations, one for a steel factory and the other for an ore mine. Under the IPPC directive [materials], industrial and agricultural activities that have high pollution risks are required to be licensed. The EC suggested that Sweden should be imposed a daily penalty payment of €14,912 after the second ruling until the country complies with the existing order.

Environment issues have been viewed to be closely interconnected with human rights issues. Earlier this week UN Independent Expert on human rights and the environment John Knox [official profile] stated that international governments must acknowledge and account for human rights when formulating environmental regulations [JURIST report]. In January more than 140 nations gathered at a UN forum agreed [JURIST report] to a legally binding treaty addressing the use of mercury, a metal that is infamous for its detrimental effects on health and the environment. In June the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] and UNEP issued a joint report [JURIST report] highlighting the need for the implementation of integrative human rights and environmental protection laws and policies to achieve sustainable development. The report stated that the "protection of the environment and the promotion of human rights are increasingly seen as intertwined" and that individuals from poor countries are more vulnerable to diseases and other basic need insecurities as a direct result of the ecosystem.

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