In an interview with New Europe, Italy’s Environment Minister Gian Luca Galletti spoke about his meeting with European Union Commissioner for Environment Karmenu Vella and about the infringement procedures against Italy over non-compliant landfills, as well as Italy’s new environment policy.

What did you discuss with Commissioner Vella?

We spoke about the circular economy and the infringement procedures against Italy. I underlined my commitment to work effectively on both the waste management package and the circular economy. I anticipated some rules included in the environmental decree (collegato ambientale) and about the legislative effort for the future of these themes.  

The commission withdrew both packages on the circular economy and on the waste management, but during the Environment Council last Friday [March 6] we also decided that each country will send proposals to the Commissioner in order to include them in the discussion next year as decided by the Junker Commission.

Italy has made some effort to close some of the infringement procedures. Do you think the commission recognises this?

Commissioner Vella recognised our positive actions taken this year as regards the infringements. We reduced the number of infringements about the environment to 17 from 29 (15 are under the regional administration and two national). We also analysed our most important infringements starting from the ones on the abusive landfills. On the 15th of April we will have the first hearing on the ones in Campania.

We also spoke about the dramatic Ilva of Taranto case and my proposal to create a technical table for a future date, hosting the commissioners of Ilva and the technicians of the interested ministries here in Brussels. This has been accepted.        

Is it possible to reduce the fines?

About a possible ‘discount’ on the EU fines for the abusive landfills, I think we will be able to demonstrate the progress made so far. I saw the availability of the commission on all these themes.

I asked the commission and to my technicians [to forge] a better communication between the ministry and the commission. The exchange of data and the information is our weak point. Many infringements are proceeding because my country is not able to communicate and each region communicates on its own or in a different way and this creates confusion. Last October we organised a seminar in Italy for the technicians of the commission in order to communicate in a univocal way. Apart from the concrete actions on the ground and day-by-day, communication is key in this case.

At the end of the day, however, Italy will have to pay €40m in fines. Is it possible to avoid this?

We are working very hard on this. In the coming months, we will be able to present a plan for the reclaim of these landfills because the EU fine starts if the landfills are not closed and reclaimed.