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2005-08-05 06:31:00
Embassy Athens
Cable title:  


Tags:   ECON  GR  SENV 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ATHENS 002086 


E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary: Greece, threatened with legal action by the
European Commission for environmental violations, is once
again attempting to confront its recurring waste management
problem by implementing a National Waste Management Plan.
The focus will be to shut down the 2626 illegal landfills and
the construction of 48 additional legal landfills. Similarly
Athens, with only one legal landfill and a sewage treatment
plant deemed unusable by the Greek Council of State,
struggles to find alternative storage sites that conform to
EU regulations while minimizing public outcry. End summary.



2. (U) Recently the Ministry of Environment announced a
National Waste Management Plan. The plan is a multi-step
course of action to deal with the Greece's 2626 illegal
landfill sites, 1458 of which are still in operation. Almost
half of the illegal landfills pose environmental dangers with
638 bordering forests and over 300 within 100 meters of
rivers and streams.

3. (U) The first stage of this plan provides for the closing
of all inactive landfills and the restoration of those areas.
During the second stage, all but one illegal site near the
legal landfill will close and the area restored. The
Ministry projects that by 2008, 2031 illegal landfills will
close leaving 595 sites to be closed at a later time.
Ultimately, the plan provides for the operation of the 39
landfills currently in operation serving 300 municipalities
and the construction of an additional 48 sites to serve an
additional 600 municipalities.

4. (U) The National Waste Management Plan also targets the
treatment of waste through composting or incineration.
According to EC figures, 91.8 percent of the total garbage
Greece produces ends up in landfills. The Ministry aims to
decrease the percentage of untreated waste to 75 percent by
2010, 50 percent by 2013, and 35 percent by 2022.

5. (U) The EU and the GoG intend to divide the cost of 400m
euros needed for the 2000-plus closings -- 75 percent from
the Third Community Support Framework and 25 percent from the
Greek state coffers. Similarly, the Ministry anticipates
that the Fourth Community Support Framework will fund 75
percent of the post-2008 closings with the remaining 25
percent coming from the GoG budget. The funds allocated by
the EU will be lost if the GoG does not implement the Plan as
scheduled. Additionally, the European Commission is
threatening legal action in six different cases, including
management of wastewater and solid waste, if GoG does not
comply with regulations. The Ministry plans to launch an

advertising campaign on the waste management problem so that
local reaction and protests of disappointed inhabitants who
cry "not in my backyard" are more effectively confronted.



6. (U) Despite Athens, five million inhabitants only one
legal landfill exits to handle the 6000-ton daily trash
output. Athens, main sewage treatment plant is on the small
island of Psyttaleia, near the port of Piraeus. Earlier this
year Greece,s highest administrative court, the Council of
State, ruled that "it is no longer possible to dispose of
sludge on the island of Psyttaleia . . . (because) there is a
risk of the sludge leaking into the sea in the Saronic Gulf
causing considerable damage to the marine environment."

7. (U) In May local residents of Ano Liossia staged a
seven-day blockade in response to a Council of State decision
to have EYDAP transfer the sludge from Psyttaleia to Ano
Liossia. This blockade prevented not only the transfer of
the sludge but also all access to the dump; piles of trash
accumulated in the city where trash is collected daily.
Local authorities had previously prevented this transfer in

2003. Because of that prohibition, an excess of 150,000 tons
of sludge has built up on Psyttaleia with another 700 tons
added each day. EYDAP and GoG officials claim that
transferring the sludge to Ano Liossia is their only option
because the sewage-drying unit on Psyttaleia will not be
completed until 2007.

8. (U) The Ano Liossia landfill is close to capacity and is
slated to shut down within the 8ext 12 months. Although
three new landfills will replace it, construction has yet to
begin on any of the new sites because of local opposition and
lawsuits by the municipalities where construction is slated.

9. (U) Athens has launched a four-month long pilot recycling
program in 11 neighborhoods in central Athens. The city
chose three companies to run three trial recycling programs,
and will contract one of the companies in early 2006 based on
its trial performance. Athens has previously attempted
recycling programs, but because of lack of government support
and ineffective organization, the programs were forgotten.
Athens also attempted a last-minute recycling program for the
2004 Summer Olympics. Because the city could not handle the
large volume of recyclable materials, the excess was stored
for future processing, sold, or simply trashed.

10. (U) Comment: Coming on the heels of other economic
reforms that ND is being forced to make, waste management and
sewage treatment represents yet another publicly contentious
issue that requires immediate attention. This issue,
inherited from previous administrations, leaves GoG pressed
between EU regulations, the necessity of a solution, and
keeping the public satisfied with their decision. It is
possible that GoG has waited until EU pressure reached its
current levels so as to be able to implement the necessary
changes and yet divert public opprobrium by blaming EU
regulations. End comment