Brussels, 6 April 2011
Environment: Commission takes Belgium to Court and warns Romania over failure to comply with EU air quality rules
The European Commission is taking Belgium to court for failing to comply with EU air quality limit values for airborne particles known as PM10. Belgium has so far failed to effectively tackle excess emissions of these particles in 8 zones across the country. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission has therefore decided to take Belgium to the EU Court of Justice. As Romania is also not complying with the air quality limit values for PM10, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion under ongoing infringement proceedings. Romania has two months to comply. In the absence of a satisfactory response, the Commission may refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.
Directive 2008/50/EC on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe requires Member States to limit the exposure of citizens to the tiny particles known as PM10. The legislation sets limit values for exposure covering both an annual concentration value (40 μg/m3), and a daily concentration value (50 μg/m3) that must not be exceeded more than 35 times in a calendar year.
Since the legislation entered into force in 2005, the limit values for PM10 have not been respected in 8 air quality zones in Belgium in the Brussels, Flanders and Walloon regions. Belgium has applied for time extensions for meeting the targets, but in the Commission's view, the conditions required have not been met. Despite an earlier reasoned opinion (see IP/10/833) asking Belgium to act, air quality has not improved, so the Commission has decided to take Belgium to the EU Court of Justice.
In Romania, 17 areas have been found to exceed PM10 limits. Romania applied for an exemption in 2010 for 11 of these 17 areas, and the Commission sent a reasoned opinion (see IP/10/833) concerning the 6 areas not covered by the application for an exemption. After considering the exemption request, the Commission has concluded that the necessary conditions have not been met, and so a reasoned opinion is being sent to Romania for 9 additional areas (the situation having improved in 2 of the regions concerned in the meantime). Romania has two months to reply. A failure to improve the situation could result in a summons before the EU Court of Justice.
Airborne particles (PM10) are mainly present in pollutant emissions from industry, traffic and domestic heating. They can cause asthma, cardiovascular problems, lung cancer and premature death.
The PM10 limit values were to be met by 2005 (or from the date of accession in the case of Romania), although Member States may ask the Commission to extend the time for meeting the standards until June 2011. Such exemptions are subject to a number of conditions. Member States must present an air quality plan setting out the relevant abatement actions during the extension period and demonstrate that they have taken all the necessary steps to achieve compliance by the extended deadline.
The implementation of EU legislation is a priority for the Commission, especially since unnecessary delays in reducing harmful pollutants can mean continued damage to human health.
Lists of zones in exceedance by Member State:
Time extension website:
For current information on infringements in general:
See also MEMO/11/220