EU court says Greek oil storage system violates law

Oct 25, 2001 02:00 AM

The European Court of Justice said that Athens was violating EU law by giving Greek oil refineries an advantage over foreign refineries in selling oil in Greece. The Luxembourg-based court, the highest one of the EU, said the Greek system for storing emergency reserves of petroleum and products "is not compatible with the EU principle of the free movement of goods" and discriminated against foreign oil refineries.
The ruling did not spell out what Athens had to do to comply. Court officials said the EU's executive European Commission, which brought the case to the court, would have to work out details of compliance with Athens. Under EU rules, member states have to store at least 90 days' emergency stocks of oil and oil products. The stocks are meant to be put together by oil marketing companies.

But, under Greek law since 1996, marketing companies can hand their storage obligations to refineries in Greece, in proportion to how much oil they bought from the refineries the previous year. Brussels argued that the system encouraged marketing companies to buy from Greek refineries. Athens insists that the system helped guarantee secure supplies of petroleum, even if it was an obstacle to free movement of goods.
"The court considers that the security objectives cited by Greece could be achieved by less restrictive measures," the top EU court said. The court can impose fines on EU member states if they do not comply. That power has been used only once, however, when the court in July 2000 fined Greece euro 20,000 ($ 17,840) per day for failing to clean up toxic waste in Crete.

Source: Xinhua
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