The EU Court of Justice has found that Italy failed in two of its obligations to prevent the spread of the bacterium Xylella fastidiosa, which has attacked European olive groves.

According to its ruling, “Italy had not immediately removed, in the containment area, at least all the infected plants in the 20km strip of the infected zone bordering the buffer zone,” and where those removed, “this was done only several months after those plants had been found to be infected,” Olive Oil Times reported on 5 September. The Ccourt also found that Italy had failed to conduct annual surveys at appropriate times of the year.

However, it rejected the European Commission’s request to establish “that Italy has persistently and generally failed to fulfill the obligation to prevent the spread of Xylella”.

Xylella fastidiosa was first discovered in Italy in 2013, most likely via the import of infected plant material from Central America. It has devastated tens of thousands of acres of olive groves in the Apulia region of Italy, and has also been confirmed in France.

The bacterium attacks a plant’s water transporting xylem vessels, blocking water movement and causing symptoms that resemble water stress.

Last spring, the bacteria showed signs of spreading further into Mediterranean olive growing regions, reported Olive Oil Times.