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Friday, February 29, 2008

Crime and Punishment in Europe

EU threatens Italy with fines over waste crisis
18 January 2008

Since December 2007, over 100,000 tonnes of rubbish, including toxic waste, have piled up in the city of Naples and the surrounding region of Campania. The EU has promised to continue ongoing legal action against Italy over its shaky waste legislation, including possible financial penalties.

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.

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. source
My comment: Well, we have the same problem here and it's not the mafia to blame. It's the mayors and politicians that never bother with the trivial until it gets out of control. And when it does, they are all sooo helpless. I hope Italy handle the situation, because it's terrible to see this happening in European country.

Erika oil-slick trial sets 'ecological prejudice' precedent
17 January 2008

In a landmark decision that could set a legal precedent, the French energy giant Total and three other parties have been charged for their role in the sinking of the Erika ship, which caused a major oil spill in 1999.

The sinking, in December 1999, of Erika – a 25-year-old, rusting, single-hulled oil tanker – caused the leakage of more than 20,000 tonnes of toxic fuel oil, polluting 400km of France's coastal area, destroying the marine environment and killing tens of thousands of seabirds.

The catastrophe sent a shockwave not only through France, but across the whole of the European Union, spurring the Commission to adopt a series of strict preventive measures to take action to improve maritime safety, known as the Erika I and II packages . The measures included the complete banning of single-hull oil tankers from carrying heavy fuel oil in the European Union as of 2003 and the gradual elimination of all EU single-hull tankers by 2015.

An even tougher third package is currently being examined by the European Parliament and the 27 member states.

In a ruling on 16 January 2008, the Criminal Court of Paris condemned the world's fourth largest oil group Total SA to a fine of €375,000 – the maximum allowable penalty for maritime pollution – claiming "ecological prejudice" caused by the sinking of the Erika.

The case represents the first time that a French court has handed down a conviction for environmental damage and the landmark ruling could establish a legal precedent for suing companies or persons over major ecological disasters.

Cargo owners that charter a ship are usually precluded from responsibility under international maritime law. However, the Court ruled that only Total's subsidiary, Total Transport, would be let off as the ship's legal charterer. Total SA, on the other hand, was found guilty of recklessness in its vessel inspection and vetting procedure.

Erika's Italian owner Guiseppe Saverese and its Italian manager Antonio Pollara were also found guilty and fined €75,000 each – the maximum penalty for physical persons. According to the Court, the two men had committed a fault by cutting down on maintenance work on the Erika in order to save money, despite heavy corrosion of the ship's structures.

The Italian maritime certification company RINA, which judges blamed for issuing a navigability certificate to the ship without undertaking the necessary checks "under the pressure of commercial constraints", was also fined the maximum amount for a company, €175,000.

The four parties were also told to pay out nearly €200 million in damages to some one hundred plaintiffs in the case, including the French state, the regions, environmental protection groups such as Greenpeace, fishermen and hotel owners.

Eleven other accused parties, including the ship's Indian captain Karun Mathur and Total's former security chief Bertrand Thouillin, were let off the hook. Accusations of "putting other people's lives in danger", which could have led to prison sentences, were dropped against everyone.

The case is however not yet over, as Total and the other convicted parties still have ten days in which to appeal the decision. This would lead to a suspension of sanctions and a new trial in around one year. source
My comment: I hope this serves for an example to all the companies that tend to be negligent in their duties toward their crews and the Nature as a whole. We saw what happened with a Bulgarian ship that sinked near Ukrain. Only one man survived. Why? Because no one controls those ships and their condition. Maybe now, the companies that own them will take care of them.

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