Despite broad consensus across political parties, Italian MEPs are blocking a European Parliament debate on the continuing waste crisis in Campania, southern Italy.
Several political groups, including the Liberals (ALDE), the Socialists (S&D), the Greens and the leftists (GUE/NGL) pushed a motion for a resolution urging action to resolve the crisis.
However, Italian members of the S&D group now appear to be trying to kill the resolution altogether and block the motion.
According to Parliament sources, their fear is that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi may use the affair as a media tool to generate bad publicity for the Socialists ahead of the party's internal primary election on 23 January.
The waste crisis began many years ago and has continued under various governments, the Parliament sources said, suggesting that Berlusconi may seek to use his media empire to blame his political opponents.
The vote on the resolution was originally supposed to take place on Wednesday (19 January) but may now have to be postponed until after February.
In April 2010, the European Parliament sent a group of MEPs on a fact-finding mission to the region after the waste crisis had broken out.
Local petitioners in Campania told MEPs they were concerned about the possible health hazards resulting from the waste and the non-compliance of local waste management sites with European standards.
The national authorities, on the other hand, declared the sites of "strategic interest," restricted access to them and called in the military to guard them.
The landfills are near rivers and one of them lies in the Vesuvius National Park. Locals claim that their waste sorting procedures do not conform to regulation and pose a threat to human health.
A report was adopted by the European Parliament on 30 September setting out alternatives to the existing waste management facilities and calling for the withdrawal of military supervision and the allocation of an appropriate budget for tackling the waste crisis.
The European Court of Justice has sentenced Italy for infringements of several directives, such as the Hazardous Waste and Landfills Directive, first in 2007 and most recently in 2010.
Nonetheless, the waste crisis in Campania continues.
The EU's Landfill Directive obliges member states to reduce the amount of municipal solid waste in landfill by 65% by 2016 compared to 1995 levels. But it does not give countries binding specifications on what to do with it: a situation that has led most member states to opt for incineration.
According to the European Commission, landfill use remains widespread and constitutes a threat to public health, safety and the environment, especially landfill of hazardous waste.
Italy was taken to the European Court of Justice for failing to put in place waste collection and treatment plans in the Campania region as required under the EU's Waste Framework Directive.
Waste crises are not new to Campania, where waste disposal has for a long time been a lucrative business controlled largely by the 'Camorra' mafia. In summer 2007, severe garbage collection problems in the region made international headlines and prompted the Commission to open an infringement procedure (EurActiv 27/06/07).
- 23 Jan.: Socialist Party primaries in Italy.
- EurActiv Slovakia:Taliani zablokovali debatu o odpadkoch v Kampánii