Poland and Germany had their first hearing with the European Commission on Wednesday (20 September), following a complaint by Warsaw that Germany shipped 35,000 tonnes of illegal waste into the country.
“I hope that we can get to a point where, in accordance with the EU regulation, Germany will just take back this waste,” said Adam Guibourgé-Czetwertyński, undersecretary of state at the Polish climate and environment ministry, speaking to Reuters and Euractiv about the case.
“The fact that we are at this stage is really because of disappointment at the lack of reaction of Germany for many years on these topics. The most important case, which is more than 20,000 tonnes in total, has lasted for eight years, and we haven’t been able to see any concrete action from Germany,” he added.
Warsaw is arguing the waste did not have proper authorisation, meaning it was illegally shipped to the country and that Germany needs to take it back. According to Guibourgé-Czetwertyński, Poland has tried to resolve the issue bilaterally with Germany, as it did similar problems with the UK. However, this has not worked.
“One of the frustrations for me is that we don’t really react to the federal level. The federal level is saying just talk to the Länders, and the Länders are not doing anything,” said Guibourgé-Czetwertyński, referring to Germany’s federal regions.
“At best, we are getting a response questioning some of the findings, but with no willingness to actually check – we have invited them if they have doubts, come and check for yourself, see what is there, and they don’t want to come,” he added.
Asked about the case, a spokesperson for the German Environment Ministry told Euractiv the government received the complaint in August, and the European Commission is currently having a confidential exchange with Poland and Germany.
The European Commission has until 26 October to send a formal statement to the two countries, following which the Polish government can decide whether it wants to take legal action through the European Court of Justice.
At a press conference in July, Christopher Stolzenberg, a spokesman for the German Environment Ministry, said the government was concerned about illegal waste exports.
However, he added that the enforcement of the law, investigations, and instructing the return of illegally transported waste is the responsibility of Germany’s federal states.
In total, Poland is challenging seven different cases involving 35,000 tonnes of waste that were dumped in different cities across the country. Some of this is also close to protected nature sites, according to Guibourgé-Czetwertyński.
Poland initially launched the challenge in August when it launched legal challenges against several pieces of EU climate legislation.
Speaking to Euractiv and Reuters, Guibourgé-Czetwertyński said the series of cases were not linked. The Polish government also denied that the launching of the case was linked to the upcoming Polish elections.
(Kira Taylor | Euractiv.com)
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