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POLLUTION

Germany can jail officials who flout anti-pollution rulings, court says

Germany can jail officials for failing to enforce inner-city bans on polluting vehicles, but only under specific legislation that respects proportionality, the European Court of Justice ruled Thursday.

Germany can jail officials who flout anti-pollution rulings, court says
Photo: DPA

It would be up to the German justice system to determine whether such politicians should face jail time, the court said, after being asked to rule on a long-standing dispute between environmental activists and the state government of Bavaria.

In a legal tug-of-war stretching back to 2012, environmental group Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) is attempting to force the Bavarian government to implement measures against air pollution in the state capital Munich.

Both activists and the judiciary have claimed the Bavarian government is flagrantly ignoring a 2014 Munich court decision demanding a plan of action to include a city ban for diesel-fuelled vehicles.

Thursday's ECJ opinion, though not legally binding, could have implications for leading politicians in the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling Christian Democrats.

The ECJ said any jail sentence would require “a national legal basis which is sufficiently accessible, precise and foreseeable in its application”.

It added that such punishment must be “proportionate”.

READ ALSO: How German diesel bans have ignited a debate about dirty tricks and dodgy money

The court's advocate general had said in November that no such legal basis appeared to exist in Germany.

The Bavarian higher administrative court referred the case to the ECJ in November 2018, saying that “high-ranking political figures (had) made it clear, both publicly and to the court, that they would not fulfil their
responsibilities.”

Saying a €4,000 fine had proved “inefficient”, it asked the magistrates in Luxembourg to advise on the legality of threatening lawmakers with imprisonment.

In Thursday's ruling the ECJ recalled that the “referring court found that ordering the payment of financial penalties was not liable to result” in a change in conduct since the fine would be credited as income for Bavaria and thus “not result in any economic loss”.

It said incarceration should be a recourse “only where there are no less restrictive” measures such as stiffer, renewable fines whose payment “does not ultimately benefit the budget from which they are funded”.

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CLIMATE

Central and southern Italy brace for storms and heavy snow

Storms and snowfall are forecast across much of central and southern Italy over the next few days, according to weather reports.

Snow is forecast in the hills of much of central and southern Italy.
Snow is forecast in the hills of much of central and southern Italy. Photo: Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Italy’s Civil Protection Department on Monday issued ‘orange’ alerts for bad weather along Campania’s Tyrrhenian coastline and the western part of Calabria, while Sicily, Basilicata, Lazio, Molise, Umbria, Abruzzo, central-western Sardinia, and the remaining areas of Campania and Calabria are under a lower-level ‘yellow’ weather warning.

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts is warning Italy’s central-southern regions to prepare for a blast of polar air from the Arctic Circle that will bring heavy snowfall, rain and storms, reports national weather forecaster Il Meteo.

The village of Grotte di Castro in the province of Viterbo, two hours’ drive north of Rome, mountainous parts of Sardinia, and much of the province of Campobasso in the central-eastern region of Molise were already blanketed in snow on Monday morning.

The department is responsible for predicting, preventing and managing emergency events across the country, and uses a green, yellow, orange and red graded colour coding system for weather safety reports.

An orange alert signifies a heavy rainfall, landslide and flood risk, while a yellow alert warns of localised heavy and potentially dangerous rainfall.

The current meteorological conditions mean that snow is expected to reach unusually low altitudes of around 450-500 metres, with flakes already falling thickly on parts of the southern-central Apennines mountain range at 500-700 metres altitude.

The hills of Marche, Abruzzo, Molise, Lazio, Sardinia, Campania, Calabria and Basilicata are likely to see heavy snow around the 500m mark, while areas at an altitude of 1000m or higher will see between 50-60 cm of fresh snow.

Affected parts of the country could see 50-60cm of snowfall.

Affected parts of the country could see 50-60cm of snowfall. Photo: Vincenzo PINTO /AFP

In areas where the snow is unlikely to reach, heavy rains and thunderstorms are anticipated, with rain forecast throughout Sardinia, Campania, Calabria and Lazio, reports Il Meteo.

Strong winds are forecast over the whole country, with the island regions of Sicily and Sardinia facing windspeeds of over 100km/hour and the risk of storm surges, according to the national newspaper La Repubblica.

READ ALSO: Climate crisis: The Italian cities worst affected by flooding and heatwaves

The north of the country, meanwhile, will see sun but low temperatures of below 0°C at night in many areas, including across much of the Po Valley.

While conditions are expected to stabilise on Tuesday, cold currents from Northern Europe are forecast to trigger another wave of bad weather on Wednesday and Thursday, with Sardinia and Italy’s western coastline again at risk of storms and heavy rainfall that will move up towards Lombardy, Emilia Romagna and Veneto in the north.

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