The European Commission has referred Spain to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) – the union’s highest court – for failing to establish and revise its waste management plans.
Spain had to establish the necessary waste management plans to cover its whole territory by December 2010, but failed to do so for every region.
The Commission explained that Spain should have informed the EU’s executive arm of its waste management plans, once adopted, and of any substantial revisions to the plans.
Waste Framework Directive
Spain was referred to the CJEU under the waste Framework Directive of 2008, which states that member states must issue a waste management plan and also revise it every six years. It received a final warning from the Commission in July 2017.
The Spanish national waste management plan was revised in 2015 to adapt it to the new requirements of the Waste Framework Directive. But as the regions – autonomous communities and cities – have the “primary competence” in the field of waste management, they have to adopt their own waste management plans under Spanish legislation.
Since not all regions had adopted a valid waste management plan, the Commission began proceedings against Spain, and since it hasn’t been adopted, the country has now been referred to the CJEU.
Spain will still have a chance to implement measures to comply with the Framework Directive, before the Commission asks the Court to impose penalties.
If the Court finds that a country has breached EU law, the national authorities must take action to comply with the Court judgment. If still unresolved, the country can be referred to the court for a second time, with financial penalties then imposed.
The amount of the fine relates to the country’s ability to pay and the severity of the breach of rules.
Some commentators who are critical of the procedure say that this allows some ‘poorer’ countries to take the fine, as it may be cheaper than implementing the required rules.
How the UK passed
In 2013, Defra released a waste management plan for England in order to meet the Framework directive, which came just days after it published its Waste Prevention Programme (see letsrecycle.com story)
Defra said it meets the aims of the revised Waste Framework Directive because: There is a comprehensive regulatory framework for waste facilities and operations which is in place to prevent harm to the environment and human health.
It’s not clear if the upcoming waste and resources strategy will meet the criteria set out in the Waste Framework Directive. However, Defra can issue a subsequent waste management plan providing it meets criteria relating to ‘promoting high quality recycling’ and achieving any EU-set recycling targets.