In the case of Smaltini v. Italy (application no. 43961/09, ) – which originated from the alleged dramatic environmental impact of the Ilva steel factory in Taranto – the Court declared the application inadmissible due to the lack of an established causal link between the resultant pollution and damage effected. This decision – representing the most recent contribution from the ecthr to the development of an environmental dimension within the echr system – leaves, however, an open door for future applications against Ilva, in the event of more persuasive evidence and/or new scientific developments being able to prove the link between pollution and damage.
This paper will therefore firstly evaluate the decision of Smaltini v. Italy, assessing to what extent this judgment constitutes the predictable outcome of an established jurisprudence. Secondly, it will speculate on the alternative, promising outcomes that the case could have had if the proof of a causal link had been fulfilled, in the light of existing ecthr case-law on environmental matters – especially as regards the application of the principle jura novit curia.