The EU is losing all their credentials

Carmen Gomez
The EU is losing all their credentials

Ever since I heard on the news that the much awaited sewage treatment plant is soon be built in Gibraltar, I have been pondering on the matter of the sludge; which was also mentioned at the time; which is intended for landfill in Spain. 

The trouble is that we all know of Spain’s dismal record in this area; for although various member states have been mentioned re the matter of illegal landfills including Slovenia, Romania, Italy and Portugal; theirs account for a small number compared with Spain who has 300 illegal sites, according to the EU. The curious thing here is that, when any other country but Spain, is warned by the EU that it will be taken to Court if they do not comply with their environmental duties, they end up getting fined! But not Spain!

Slovakia, for example, was fined I million Euros for flouting landfill resealing by failing to shut down a huge rubbish dump five years after it was ordered to. Then we have the case of Italy who last year was fined 25million Euros by the European Court of Justice, for wastewater breach in 2013.

Worst record

Spain on the other hand; the country with the worst record of not complying with directives from the EU; failure to comply with EU rules on flood prevention; failing to take adequate steps to prevent the deterioration of protected habitat in what once was the exquisite Wetlands of Doñana, in breach of nature legislation; failing to seal landfills and restore them, gets off scot free. Spain is doing what it has always done; which is to ignore whatever rules they are supposedly bound by when they become members of a union, and carry on regardless.

Let us go through briefly this EU and Spain charade. Since 2007, when the EU Commission was; note; “taking” Spain to the European Court of justice over poor waste management, Spain has failed to take measures to close, seal and ecologically restore the landfills. In 2013, Spain was issued with an ultimatum, pending closure, sealing and regeneration of landfills, causing a significant degradation of the earth. In 2015 the Commission was taking them to court. In 2017 the EU declared 61 Spanish landfill sites as illegal i.e. not in keeping with environmental safety rules. To date; the commission urges Spain to comply with the EU legislation on waste management. I would be inclined to call it a “hoot” if it wasn’t so disgraceful an affair!

Having said this I have also learnt, re the matter of “sludge” from sewage treatment plants, that there are other solutions apart from landfills. Apparently the use of sludge in plantation forestry is hugely popular. The different uses of elimination of sludge such as landfills, or incineration, have a negative consequence for the environment; but the agricultural use has increased worldwide, especially in crops. Sludge application provides soil amendment and additional nutrient supply for planted trees.

Economically also, the goal is to limit the costs. Land application is also claimed to be one of the most acceptable ways of utilization in the EU, for medium and long term perspective. I have also read of the fertilisation value of municipal sewage for eucalyptus plants and trees. Hopefully this is where our sludge will end up as a viable business proposition.

The thing is that if you take the time to read about the goings on of the EU member states and their flouting of rules and laws; you realize that not only do you no longer want to belong to such a union, but you get further disgusted by their treatment of Gibraltar, who besides this lot, shone like a beacon in the sky! I mean the EU is losing all their credentials when you think that the Union’s purpose is amongst other things; “to promote peace; break down barriers to trade and borders, and to promote inclusion and combat discrimination. How does this translate into their lending Spain their support for their territorial claim over the land on which the Gibraltar airport is built?


Then you learn that a UK based environmentalist campaign group, Client Earth, are taking the EIB; a publicly owned International financial institution of which its shareholders are the EU members; to court over a 69 million dollar loan for the development of a wood-fired plant, in La Coruña; because crucial environmental scrutiny was not applied. They claim that it has breached its own guidelines on environmentally responsible investment, in granting the loan to a biomass plant in Northern Spain.

It not only shines a light on the lack of transparency, but by declining their request for a review, the EIB has denied them a right guaranteed by International and EU law. Biomass plants have harmful emissions and whilst it may be renewable, it is not environmentally friendly.


The hypocrisy of this lies also in the fact that in 2018, the European commission urged that countries should be sent to Europe’s highest court, for failing to demonstrate that they have taken adequate measures to tackle air pollution.

It’s all a farce. The question at the end of the day is “where will our sludge end up, and will we be sanctioned together with Spain by the EU, at some point in time?” But then its early days yet for speculation. Let’s not put the cart before the horse!