The European Commission is still assessing whether to issue a final warning to the Maltese government after it failed to conduct a Strategic Impact Assessment before extending the development zones in 2006.
EU law states that an environment impact assessment (EIA) should be conducted on any plan commenced after July 2004 which has an impact on the environment.
“In view of the considerable amount of detailed information provided by the Maltese authorities in response to the letter of formal notice, the assessment is still ongoing,” a commission spokesperson told MaltaToday.
The EC will only consider the “next appropriate step” following the completion of the assessment.
The EU issued a ‘letter of formal notice’ on the matter back in March 2007. On that occasion a Commission official told MaltaToday that “the amendments to development zones under the Structure Plan for Malta without undertaking a strategic environmental assessment were in breach of the SEA Directive.”
The Commission started infringement procedures against Malta following a nine-month investigation commenced in June 2006, after a series of questions sent by MaltaToday.
But 10 months after the first warning, the EC has still not issued a reasoned opinion as it is still assessing the information provided by the Maltese government.
The government denies breaching the directive arguing that the process was initiated way back in 1991, well before July 2004 when the SEA Directive came in to effect.
A letter of formal notice is sent to a member state “whenever the Commission considers that there may be an infringement of EU law that warrants the opening of an infringement procedure.” This is considered to be the first stage of the infringement procedure.
The Maltese government was given two months to reply to the Commission’s letter. If the reply proves unsatisfactory the Commission issues a ‘reasoned opinion’, considered to be a final written warning to the member state. Failing to comply with the reasoned opinion may incur financial penalties, if the Commission decides to take the case before the Court of Justice.