The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled against Poland for persistently breaching EU air quality limits, and for failing to act to improve the situation.
A number of other countries are also facing legal action for breaching EU air quality limits, including the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, France, Italy and the UK. A total of nine countries has so far received ‘final warnings’ for failing to meet EU air pollution limits for particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide.
The European Environmental Bureau has referred to these countries which continually breach EU air quality limits as a “toxic bloc”, and expressed a desire to see more of them taken to court following successful rulings against Poland and Bulgaria in recent months.
The European Commission said that extensive coal and rubbish burning in homes was the reason Poland had “persistently exceeded” its daily legal limit of pollutants in 35 of its 46 air quality zones. Nine of these zones also failed in their annual legal limit.
What has the response to the decision been?
EEB Policy Officer Margherita Tolotto said that the ruling against Poland could have widespread consequences for the other countries in the so-called toxic bloc. She said: “This ruling is not just about Poland; it serves as a warning to other governments that there are consequences for inaction on air pollution.”
She added that taking the countries in question to court would show the EU’s commitment to fighting air pollution: “The European Commission has been very clear that a Europe that cares about its citizens cannot ignore this invisible killer. We expect other governments will be sent to court next month.”
Cases against other countries are currently being drawn up, although the decision to refer them to the ECJ is subject to a vote by all 28 European Commissioners. Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella has hinted that further cases will be sent to the court in early March, although no more details have been offered.