EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas told the Parliament on 15 January that the Commission "will continue the infringement procedure against Italy started in June 2007 for breach of Community waste legislation. It 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", he said.
In summer 2007, a previous waste crisis in the Campania region made international headlines and prompted EU infringement procedures (EurActiv 27/06/07).
Italy's Campania region, which includes the city of Naples, has suffered from periodic waste collection and disposal crises. The Camorra, a notorious criminal organisation, controls most of the waste disposal industry in the region. The organisation has undermined the construction of environmentally sound landfills and incinerators for decades, because these would undermine the profitability of its illicit operations, according to press reports.
Despite evidence of criminal activity, Dimas placed most of the blame for the situation on the Italian authorities. "Frequently-cited speculation about the role of organised crime should not be used to hide the fact that the more direct cause for the waste crises appears to be the lack of action and the lack of political will to adopt the measures necessary for solving the waste management problem", he said.
The Commissioner also added that "what we are witnessing these days in Naples is not a crisis coming out of the blue. It is the culmination of a more than 14-years-old process of insufficient implementation of European waste legislation for which Italy has repeatedly been condemned by the European Court of Justice".
But Italy's current centre-left government under Prime Minister Romano Prodi is composed of a fractious nine-party coalition that has apparently been unable to mount an effective response to the situation.
In addition, the resignation yesterday (17 January) of Italy's Justice Minister Clemente Mastella over bribery allegations against his wife has sent shockwaves through the Prime Minister's office. The affair threatens to undermine the fragile ruling coalition of the Prodi government, for Mastella's resignation also signals the departure from government of several important Prodi allies.