The European Commission has welcomed a cooperation agreement struck between the British and Irish governments to prevent illegal waste shipments across the land border between their two countries. Brussels was threatening legal action over the problem, because it broke European Union (EU) waste shipment rules, but with London and Dublin combining their forces, and tougher waste regulations being approved for Northern Ireland, the Commission has been satisfied. In a statement this week it supported the adoption of a cooperation document aimed at strengthening contacts between Ireland and the United Kingdom to combat illegal waste exports. Illegal shipments have been fuelled by the lower fees charged in Northern Ireland for handling waste than in the Republic. At a British parliament debate earlier this year, Northern Ireland junior minister David Cairns said: Illegal waste activity is a serious problemOrganised criminal gangs are generating significant profits from the illegal cross-border transport and deposit of waste. Such activity also poses a risk to public health and the environment. The new regulations introduced new powers for police and other officials to search and seize vehicles where illegal waste activity is suspected, and increased fines. Cairns added: The Republic takes the matter very seriously and faces the same challenges as us.