EU may fine Italy over Naples rubbish crisis
By Huw Jones
STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - The European Commission may fine Italy over a rubbish crisis in Naples unless its government takes faster action to tackle the problem, the EU environment chief said on Tuesday.
Refuse collection in Naples and the surrounding Campania region stopped around Christmas when almost every dump was declared full. As a result, 110,000 tonnes of garbage have piled up in the streets, triggering sporadic violence.
Last spring, during a previous breakdown in rubbish collection and disposal in Campania, the Commission launched legal action against Italy for breaching EU waste legislation.
"The Commission as the guardian of the (EU) treaty will continue the infringement procedure against Italy started in June 2007 for breach of community waste legislation," Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas told the European Parliament.
Dimas, who will discuss the problems with the Italian government later this month, said Naples' troubles were 14 years in the making and it needed a better strategy to tackle them.
"(The Commission) is ready to take further legal steps should the current breaches of community legislation continue, using all available measures under the treaty, including the possibility of imposing fines," Dimas said.
Italian members of the EU assembly supported Dimas' call for proper waste management and not just short-term steps to tackle what he called the present waste disaster.
"The enemies of Naples are those who have brought down its good name," said centre-right lawmaker Giuseppe Gargani. "The whole refuse disposal system is now in the hands of the Camorra, organized crime. The Commission must take a strong position to put a stop to the situation."
Gianni Pittella, from the assembly's socialist bloc, said it was not just a question of politics. "There is not much of a civic sense in that part of the world," he said.
"People in that part of the world are way behind in their attitude to the environment," added liberal lawmaker Alfonso Andria.
Dimas said that organized crime, often said to be heavily involved in the rubbish crisis, should not be blamed when the problem appeared to be a lack of political will to adopt the necessary measures.
(Editing by Dale Hudson and Tim Pearce)