On 25 February 2021, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs): Petros Kokkalis, Dimitrios Papadimoulis, Konstantinos Arvanitis, Alexis Georgoulis, Stelios Kouloglou and Elena Kountoura of The Left group in the European Parliament – GUE/NGL, posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“The Greek Government recently entered into a new investment agreement with Hellas Gold, a company with Canadian interests, amending its 17-year contract to operate the Cassandra Mines following the company’s failure to fulfil its obligations. The amended contract exempts the company from its obligation to construct and operate a metallurgical plant in Madem Lakkos, which was a key element of the original contract, and expands its activities in the area.
In view of the enormous environmental footprint of this investment in the region, can the Commission say:
1. Is the company required to carry out a new environmental impact assessment, in accordance with Directives 2014/52/EU, 92/43/EEC and 2010/75/EU, and apply for a new — rather than an amended — permit from the Greek authorities, given that the amending agreement deviates significantly from the original agreement?
2. What does the Commission consider to be the minimum period for a public consultation and for informing the public, in particular those concerned, about the new environmental impact assessment and, consequently, the approval of the environmental operating conditions, as provided for in the above-mentioned directives, given the adverse effects on the environment, living standards and health?
3. How does it intend to ensure that the company and the Greek authorities comply fully with all the obligations contained in EU legislation?”
On 27 April 2021, Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius, responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “An application for new, or amended, permit preceded by an environmental impact assessment, on the basis of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive, would need to be made in case of a modification of an existing project involving works or other interventions in the natural surroundings which by virtue of, inter alia, its nature or scale, presents risks that are similar, in terms of their effects on the environment, to those posed by the project itself.
The EIA Directive establishes the obligation for Member States to provide early and effective opportunities for the public concerned to participate in the environmental decision making procedure, including the setting of reasonable time frames for different phases of participation.
The time frame for consultation of the public concerned on the environmental report shall not be shorter than 30 days (Article 6(7)). It is possible to exempt projects approved by a legislative procedure from the provisions related to public consultation if the legislative procedure fulfils the objectives of the EIA Directive (Article 2(5)) and without prejudice to the transboundary consultation according to Article 7 of the EIA Directive.
Without prejudice to the Commission’s powers as guardian of the Treaties, national administrative and/or judicial bodies of Member States are primarily responsible for the implementation of the EIA Directive and to verify compliance of individual projects and provide the appropriate means to address the matter.”
Photo Credit : https://pixabay.com/photos/machinery-mine-construction-site-2653706/