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Commission gets tough on air quality improvement


Brussels has set a hard deadline for Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the U.K. to show how they intend to comply with the EU’s air quality standards or face court action.

In a letter to German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, the European Commissioner for the Environment Karmenu Vella demanded to know by January 30 “how and by when you intend to achieve compliance [with the relevant air quality directives].”

POLITICO obtained a copy of the letter, dated Tuesday, January 16. According to an EU official familiar with the matter, similar letters on the lack of compliance with nitrogen dioxide standards were sent to the ministers of France, Italy, Spain and the U.K., as well as to countries in breach of particulate matter limits — Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia (and Italy and France again).

If the countries don’t respond, “the Commission will proceed to the next step of the infringement procedure, namely referral to the Court [of the European Union],” Vella wrote.

“In light of the seriousness and the urgency of this issue and due to the lack of sufficient progress in ensuring compliance with air quality standards,” Vella invited the ministers of all the affected EU countries to a 9 a.m. meeting in Brussels on January 30, which he said “should be considered as the last opportunity to show the steps being taken to redress the situation.”

He added: “Please confirm your participation using the attached form by 23 January.”

This article is part of POLITICO’s new Sustainability coverage, tracking issues including the circular economy, air and water pollution, nature protection and chemicals, and including the Sustainability Insights newsletter every Monday afternoon. Email [email protected] for more information.

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