The European Union environment's commissioner, Stavros Dimas, threatened Tuesday to fine Italy over its handling of a prolonged rubbish crisis in Naples and blamed its politicians for lacking the political will to end the dispute.
Addressing a debate held in the European Parliament's building in Strasbourg, Dimas noted that the European Commission, the EU's executive, had already launched an infringement procedure against Italy in the spring of last year, when it was first informed of the critical situation in the Campania region.
"The Commission will continue the infringement procedure against Italy and 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," Dimas said.
Last week, Romano Prodi's centre-left government appointed a "rubbish czar" charged with solving the crisis, which has seen 100,000 tons of refuse pile up in the southern Italian city over the last fortnight.
Prodi gave Giovanni De Gennaro a four-month-long mandate with powers to override local authorities and supervise rubbish removal operations, an activity which Italian officials say has been infiltrated by the local mafia, the Camorra.
However, Dimas on Tuesday said it was Italy's politicians who were mostly to blame for the crisis.
"Frequently cited speculations 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.
Dimas noted that the latest developments in Naples were "the culmination of a more than 14-year-old process of insufficient implementation of European waste legislation, for which Italy has repeatedly been condemned by the European Court of Justice."
The commissioner expressed concern that the situation might be getting worse and called on the Italian government to promptly implement long-term strategic measures.
These should include "a sufficient network of waste treatment facilities" and "a coherent long-term waste management strategy with a view to boosting recycling and separate waste collection." ( Dpa )