THE government is working to stall or avert penalties from the EU over the island’s failure to properly treat urban wastewater, Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis said on Friday.
The EU Commission has referred Cyprus to the EU Court of Justice over failure to properly treat urban wastewater. If convicted Cyprus could be slapped with steep fines.
The European Court of Justice ordered Spain last week to pay a €12m fine for prolonged failure to comply with the same directive. Last February, Greece was fined €5m over its failure to comply with wastewater treatment regulations in western Attica and was facing an additional penalty of €3.28m for every six months of delays.
The issue emerged this week after the minister said in a written response to a question on the matter submitted by the Greens’MP Giorgos Perdikis, that the economic crisis and cash-strapped local authorities were among the reasons Cyprus was not able to fulfil its obligations.
Kadis said on Friday his ministry was in the process of speeding up progress on this issue and expressed the view that significant progress would be made in the next two years. To that end, he said, he was preparing to brief the cabinet with suggestions on how this could be expedited.
“I believe that by pointing out to the EU the progress we will make in the coming years, we will either avoid or delay much of any sanctions that will be imposed on Cyprus,” Kadis said.
He also said that problems and delays had been identified in each case and each municipality separately, while plans had been made on how to overcome them so that significant progress could be made either to delay or prevent any penalty for Cyprus.
Kadis said that, as per the Urban Waste Water Directive, there should be sewage collection networks and a sewage treatment plant in all communities with a population of more than 2,000 at the end of 2012.
In his response to Perdikis, he said after the EU ruled that Cyprus failed to apply the directive in 31 of 57 agglomerations (seven urban and 50 rural ones) the government in July 2018 filed a revised national programme for the implementation of the directive with completion by the end of 2027.
The EU Commission, however, decided to refer Cyprus to the EU Court of Justice regardless.
According to the Commission decision, Cyprus had failed to provide a collecting system for a number of agglomerations and also failed to ensure that the urban wastewater entering collecting systems were subject to appropriate treatment.
“Although some progress has been made, Cyprus is, however, still failing to ensure that in 31 agglomerations all wastewaters are collected or that urban waste water entering collecting systems is subject to appropriate treatment before being discharged,” an EU announcement said.
It had also said that as full compliance was in some cases not expected by the Cypriot authorities before 2027, the Commission has decided to refer the case to the Court of Justice.
The Commission had opened the infringement proceedings by sending a letter of formal notice to the Cypriot authorities in July 2017 and a reasoned opinion in June 2018.
Kadis said in his response to Perdikis that due to the economic crisis and the accumulation of obligations, the appropriations available did not allow the agriculture ministry to move as quickly as it wished.
He also said the delay was due to lack of funding for the construction of the necessary infrastructure for agglomerations within municipalities, adding that the projects did not involve state monies.
Other issues cited are administrative problems in the case of agglomerations that are under municipalities, the non-inclusion of rural agglomerations in the urban sewerage boards to ensure the construction of their projects and difficulty in awarding projects that have been announced as a result of repeated appeals to the review authority and the administrative court.