EU takes action against Ireland over range of environmental issues

Published by Niall Sargent on

May 18th, 2018

The European Commission is taking action against Ireland for failure to comply with a range of environmental, nuclear and marine obligations under EU law.

In its monthly package of infringement decisions, the Commission announced that it is pursuing Ireland for its failure to adopt national programmes for the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste.

Ireland has also been called up for its failure to transpose a new EU Directive on Nuclear safety standards before the February 2018 deadline set by the Commission.

The new Directive aims to modernise Europe’s radiation protection legislation, laying down basic safety standards to protect workers, members of the public, and patients against dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation.

It also includes emergency preparedness and response provisions that were strengthened following the Fukushima nuclear accident.

Ireland has received a letter of formal notice in this regard. The letter is a request for information and is the first step on the infringement ladder. It must be answered within a specified period, usually two months.

fishing nets Photo: DODODT

Fisheries Points System

The Commission also sent a letter of formal notice to Ireland over its failure to implement a points system for serious fisheries infringements committed by masters (skippers) and licence holders of vessels flying the Irish flag.

The Commission also considers that Ireland has yet to put into operation its current national legislation to implement the point system for licence holders, with the consequence that no points have been assigned to date.

The formal notice “comes as a surprise” according to Fintan Kelly, policy officer with Birdwatch Ireland, as it was believed that the relevant EU regulation was signed into law back in 2014.

He added that the point system is as “fundamental” to the proper execution of the Common Fisheries Policy as “the systems for traffic offences are to road safety”.

“In the absence of a point system the possibility exists that illegal fishing activities, which damage our environment and undermine the sustainability of the fishing sector, may go unpunished,” he warned.

According to the Department for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the EU provisions for skippers are “general in nature” and require primary legislation to be passed.

“The provisions for licence holders are set down in detail in the EU Regulations and may be implemented by means of secondary legislation through a Statutory Instrument,” the Department said in a statement.

In March, Minister for the Marine, Michael Creed, TD signed the EU Point System Regulations which will apply to the Licence Holder of a sea-fishing boat for any serious infringement detected within Ireland’s 200-mile Exclusive Fishery zone by all fishing vessels.

Michael Creed, Minister, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, Ireland
Photo: Aron Urb

According to Minister Creed, this “satisfies” Ireland’s legal obligations under the Common Fisheries Policy and “will address the infringement proceedings” issued by the Commission.

The Minister said that he also intends to seek state approval to draft a Bill to provide for the separate EU points system for skippers.

“I look forward to furnishing the Commission with a detailed response advising that a system applying points to licence holders has been put in place already and that I am working to introduce primary legislation in respect of masters of fishing vessels as a matter of urgency,” the Minister said.

If the Commission is not satisfied with the information and concludes that the Member State is failing to fulfil its obligations under EU law, it may then send a formal Reasoned Opinion request to comply with EU law.

Environmental Impact Assessment

The Commission sent such an opinion to Ireland this week for its failure to adopt national laws to take into account modifications of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive.

The aim of this Directive is to ensure that an adequate impact assessment for projects likely to have significant effects on the environment is done before they are approved.

Infringement proceedings were opened in July 2017, yet the Irish government has yet to fully transpose the missing provisions.

Failure to ensure compliance with EU law may lead the Commission to refer a Member State to the European Court of Justice.

Member States comply with their obligations under EU law in 95 per cent of cases before they are referred to the Court, according to the Commission.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London