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Brussels, 16 February 2011

Environment: Commission urges Poland and Belgium to implement air quality legislation

Both Poland and Belgium have failed to transpose into national law revised EU rules which aim to reduce pollution to levels that minimise the harmful effects on human health and the environment. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, a reasoned opinion is being sent to Poland, while Belgium is receiving a second reasoned opinion. In the absence of a satisfactory response, the Commission may refer the cases to the European Court of Justice. In case Poland and Belgium do not comply with their legal obligation, the Commission may refer these Member States to the Court of Justice and may already ask the Court to impose financial sanctions at this stage, without having to return to the Court for a second ruling.1

According to Directive 2008/50/EC, Member States should have transposed the legislation into national law before 11 June 2010. Member States are required to inform the Commission once they have adopted the necessary implementation measures.

As the Commission was not notified of the transposition it issued a letter of formal notice to Poland on 16 July 2010. Since Poland has still not notified all the relevant measures, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion.

The Commission sent a letter of formal notice to Belgium on 23 November 2009 after it failed to notify that the relevant measures had been implemented. A first reasoned opinion was sent on 28 June 2010 (see IP/10/1414). As Belgium has still not adopted the legislation, the Commission is sending a second reasoned opinion.

Both Member States have two months to comply. Failing this, the Commission could refer the cases to the European Court of Justice.

The timely transposition of EU legislation is a priority for the Commission, especially since unnecessary delays in reducing harmful pollutants can mean continued damage to human health. Under new policy in cases where Member States have failed to transpose EU legislation into national law within the required deadline, the Commission can now ask for financial sanctions to be imposed at the first referral to Court. This policy was adopted in November 2010 and entered into force on 15 January 20112.


Directive 2008/50/EC revises European legislation relating to ambient air quality. It introduces a limit on airborne concentrations of fine dust particles (known as PM2.5). These particles, which are emitted by a wide range of sources including diesel vehicles, industrial processes and household boilers, are today recognised as the most dangerous air pollutant for human health. The Directive does not change existing air quality standards for seven pollutants[1] but gives Member States more flexibility in meeting some of these in areas where they face difficulties – including limits on coarser particles (known as PM10) adopted in 1999 and binding since 2005.

For current statistics on infringements in general, see:

See also MEMO/11/86

1 :

Directive adopted under a legislative procedure

2 :

Communication on the Implementation of Article 260 (3) of the Treaty (OJ C 12,15.1.2011, p1)

[ :

1] Sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, lead, coarse particles (PM10), carbon monoxide, benzene and ground-level ozone

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