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Unlawful Peloponnese Landfills Will Close in 2021, Mitsotakis Vows

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Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in the Greek parliament on Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Yorgos Kontarinis)

ATHENS – Blaming the previous ruling Radical Left SYRIZA for failing to deal with waste management problems, Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that unlawful landfills in the Peloponnese region would be shut by 2021.

In Parliament, taking a question from  Odysseas Konstantinopoulos from the center-left Movement for Change (KINAL) alliance, Mitsotakis said that work on a new waste management facility in the area will start in the first semester of 2020, reported Kathimerini.

He said whichever company is chosen, based on a public-private partnership (PPP) will be required to start taking in waste for processing within ten months after the signing of the contract – meaning no later than the end of 2021.

“The issue is linked with the health and our lives through the global climate crisis while the residues of the every day life can turn into wealth and lead to an effective circular economy with cheap production of energy, job positions, eco-innovation growth and of course a better environment for all” he underlined.

He also took the chance to lambaste SYRIZA, which had claimed to be environmentally friendly but which he said paid only lip service to the cause and let landfills being fined by the European Union for a variety of violations keep operating.

Greece has been repeatedly fined for failing to meet EU waste management efforts to eliminate illegal landfills across the country, continuing under the Conservatives.

In October, 2018, the SYRIZA government reopened 18 condemned landfills that were fined by the European Union as damaging to the environment and put them back into operation around the country, 16 in the Peloponnese, the European Commission said.

There are still 14 landfills on islands that should have been closed down years ago and replaced with more environmentally sustainable waste management facilities, said Kathimerini in a report on the reopening of the closed facilities.

It came through a decision from the Environment Ministry to allow passenger ferries to transport trash from islands struggling with waste management, with currently operating facilities not willing to take the overload.

Greece has already paid 51.2 million euros ($58.72 million in fines over such landfills. There was no information on why the European Union allowed the reopening of facilities it had condemned as unsafe.

On Sept. 7, 2016, Greece was hit with a fine of 10 million euros ($11.47 million) and another allegedly 30,000 euros ($34,404) a day for condemned landfills but there was no report on whether the daily fine was actually paid as so far it would be another 22.9 million euros ($26.26 million) and counting.

As much as 80% of waste ends up at Greek landfill sites, according to a 2010 report, the BBC said as the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said the government had not complied with several deadlines to improve, risking human health and the environment.

The ECJ, the highest EU court, ruled in 2009 that Greece had failed to carry out new rules on rubbish, hazardous waste and landfill and took further action after the government in Athens failed to meet its 2013 deadline. The court that said Greece’s failure to meet its obligations was “particularly serious in so far as it is liable to directly endanger human health and to harm the environment.”