Brussels looking into Ramla allegations -
Thu, Sep 13, 2007

Brussels looking into Ramla allegations
Ivan Camilleri in Brussels

The European Commission is investigating a number of complaints it has received over the past weeks alleging a breach of EU directives in relation to the permit granted for development at Ramla l-Hamra.

The Commission still has to take a decision on whether to start infringement procedures against Malta, European Environment Commissioner Stavrios Dimas said.

Mr Dimas was speaking in reply to a parliamentary question tabled by Labour MEP Joesph Muscat who asked for the Commission's opinion on whether the Maltese authorities had abided by the spirit of EIA directives when it issued the permit.

Mr Dimas confirmed that over the past few weeks the Commission had received a number of complaints from Maltese organisations and individuals claiming that Mepa's decision to grant a permit for the construction of a tourist villa complex went against the EU's Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) Directive and the Habitats Directive. The land, overlooking the beach, is currently occupied by the disused Ulysses Lodge.

"The Commission is currently evaluating all the information received. If, following this assessment, the Commission is of the opinion that a breach of EU laws was committed by the Maltese authorities, we will use all the powers given to the Commission through the EU treaty to make sure that the (EU) directives are respected."

According to the EIA directive, certain projects with a high impact on the environment shall be subject to an environmental assessment before authorisation is given.

When granting this permit, Mepa waived the need for an EIA, holding that a project description statement submitted by the developer was sufficient.

Mr Dimas told Mr Muscat that as a general rule, the Commission gives great importance to the conservation of rural areas in Malta particularly because of the islands' already high urbanisation. He said that the rural areas serve as the island's "green lungs" and should be protected.

Sources close to the Commission yesterday told The Times that its services are currently sifting through the information received on the case and asking for further clarifications. They said that a final decision on whether to start infringement procedures will be taken by next month. The Commission has started infringement procedures against Malta over the permit granted for the development of Fort Cambridge in Sliema which, according to Brussels, needed an EIA.

The Commission is analysing the Maltese authorities' response before deciding on the next stage of its action.
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13 Sep 2007 by