European Commission Acts on Croatian Waste Site, Flood Plans

The commission on March 8 referred Croatia to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to adequately protect people and the environment at the Biljane Donje landfill.

The European Commission has referred Croatia to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to ensure an adequate level of protection of human health and the environment at an illegal landfill in Biljane Donje, near the town of Benkovac, that is less than 50 meters from houses. The waste should have been managed in accordance with the EU rules on waste (EU Waste Framework Directive, Directive 2008/98/EC) by the end of 2015, and although Croatia committed to address the situation on several occasions, there has been no progress on the ground.

The commission reported that, for almost four years, the industrial waste deposited at the landfill has not been cleared and properly managed, and it threatens to contaminate groundwater and air. The location is currently used as a depository of a large amount of production residue of processing of ferromanganese and silicomanganese.

Because Croatian authorities failed to classify that material as waste in line with the directive, approximately 140,000 tons of this potentially harmful stone aggregate are deposited directly on the ground. Under EU law, Croatia should have put in place measures for the protection of groundwater and the prevention of the dispersion of the harmful particles through the air.

The commission opened infringement proceedings against Croatia in March 2015, followed by a reasoned opinion sent in November 2016. Since there has been no progress in ensuring proper waste management in Biljane Donje that the waste does not endanger human health and harm the environment, the commission decided to refer Croatia to the Court of Justice of the EU.

The commission also called on Ireland and Spain on March 8 to comply with the requirements of the Floods Directive (Directive 2007/60/EC), which aims to reduce and manage the risks floods pose to human health, the environment, and economic activity. Under EU law, Member States had to complete and publish flood risk management plans and notify them to the commission by March 22, 2016. In April 2017, the commission opened an infringement procedure by sending a letter of formal notice to the Irish authorities due to their failure to complete, publish, and communicate flood risk management plans for seven river basin districts. Ireland has still not notified these plans, so the commission is sending a reasoned opinion, to which Ireland has two months to reply. The commission also sent a letter of formal notice to Spain because Spanish authorities have failed to inform the commission of the flood risk management plans for the river basin districts of Catalonia and the Canary Islands. Spain also has two months to reply.