EU takes Ger­many, five oth­ers to court over air pol­lu­tion

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - International -

THE EURO­PEAN Com­mis­sion said yes­ter­day it is tak­ing Ger­many, France, the United King­dom and three other EU coun­tries to court for fail­ing to com­ply with the bloc's air qual­ity stan­dards.

The Com­mis­sion, the Euro­pean Union's ex­ec­u­tive arm, gave the six, also in­clud­ing Italy, Hun­gary and Ro­ma­nia, a last chance in Jan­uary to take the re­quired steps to im­prove air qual­ity af­ter years of warn­ings. How­ever, EU En­vi­ron­ment Com­mis­sioner Kar­menu Vella told a press con­fer­ence in Brus­sels the six, which in­clude Europe's top four econo- mies, had not acted quickly enough.

"The com­mis­sion had to con­clude that ... that the ad­di­tional mea­sures proposed are not suf­fi­cient to com­ply with air qual­ity stan­dards as soon as pos­si­ble, and there­fore are be­ing re­ferred to court," Vella said. "We can­not wait any longer," Vella said, warn­ing that Brus­sels may end up wait­ing sev­eral more years be­fore the coun­tries put mea­sures in place.

Vella had also given Spain, the Czech Repub­lic and Slo­vakia a last chance in Jan­uary to start com­ply­ing with EU stan­dards and de­cided to give them a re­prieve. "The mea­sures that are planned or be­ing put in place appear to be able to tackle [ex­ceeded lim­its] if they are fully and im­me­di­ately im­ple­mented," Vella said. But he warned the com­mis­sion was keep­ing the three un­der review.

In Jan­uary, the nine coun­tries were found to reg­u­larly ex­ceed emis­sions lim­its set to pro­tect Euro­peans against par­tic­u­late mat­ter and azote diox­ide, both pol­lu­tants.

The EU es­ti­mates that air pol­lu­tion costs the bloc 20 bil­lion eu­ros ($24.7 bil­lion) a year in health costs, but says this could be re­duced if mem­ber states com­ply with agreed emis­sions lim­its.

Through­out the EU, fine par­tic­u­lates, small par­ti­cles of pol­lu­tion, were re­spon­si­ble for three out of four pre­ma­ture pol­lu­tion deaths (399,000 out of 487,600) in 2014, ac­cord­ing to EU fig­ures.

The com­mis­sion has been urg­ing the way­ward mem­ber coun­tries to es­tab­lish in­cen­tives for the trans­port, en­ergy and agri­cul­tural sec­tor as well as im­prove ur­ban plan­ning and build­ing de­sign.

The Euro­pean En­vi­ron­men­tal Bureau, an umbrella group­ing of en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists, has de­scribed the nine coun­tries sum­moned in Jan­uary as a "toxic bloc."

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