The European Commission has sent Italy a letter as the first step of an infraction procedure, since “Italy is not fully respecting the obligations in the plan to eradicate Xylella,” Enrico Brivio, the European Commission spokesman for health and food safety, said.
Xylella fastidiosa is a bacterium that causes the Olive Quick Decline Syndrome, and affects other important crops, ornamental plants, and forest plant species. Europe is concerned about the economic consequences of the spread of the disease.
“The decision to open an infraction procedure against Italy is based on the results of the inspection conducted by the Food and Veterinary Office FVO last November, and on the evaluation of the European Commission,” Brivio said.
According to EU’s executive body, “Italy is not implementing all its commitments on eradication, containment and surveillance of Xylella.” The results of the FVO inspection will be presented at the next Committee on Plant Health, scheduled for December 16 and 17, the EC spokesman said.
The eradication of diseased trees have not been sufficient to reassure the EU that Italy is doing all it should to contain the outbreak.
The procedures imposed by Brussels were contained in the measures approved in May which were implemented by Italy only in late June, and applied first in July. A second plan that the Special Commissioner Giuseppe Silletti presented in September demanded the eradication of about 3,000 olive trees in the provinces of Lecce and Brindisi.
Italy had obtained a delay due to continuous appeals by environmental associations and Apulia farmers of the formal notice, which was prepared two months ago. But after a reasonable period of time and after the commitments to the EC were again disregarded, the letter was sent.
In October, the Lazio regional administrative court (TAR) blocked a new cull of Xylella-infected olive trees on lands owned by 21 farmers. TAR prohibited the cutting of healthy trees, as close as 100 meters from the diseased ones, thereby reducing by far the number of trees to be felled. Of the 3,000 olive tree planned, today about 1,600 have been eradicated.
After this pre-litigation, the next step might be the European Court of Justice and the possible sanctions against Italy, such as a fine and the extension of the embargo on exports nurseries, for the moment limited to the area of southern Apulia. The government now has sixty days to submit his rebuttal.