Monday

19th Feb 2018

Key EU air quality 'summit' to last just two hours

  • Every year, more than 400,000 Europeans die prematurely because of air pollution (Photo: iStock)

The ministerial "summit" on air quality taking place in Brussels on Tuesday (30 January), will last only two hours, the European Commission has confirmed to EUobserver.

The meeting was announced earlier in January as part of "a final push to find solutions to address the serious problem of air pollution in the European Union".

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • EU commissioner Vella (l) will demand explanations from ministers (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

But on Monday the commission announced that the closing press conference will take place at 11am, and later told this website the meeting itself will began at 9am.

The word summit is often reserved in the EU for meetings of country leaders - and generally last longer than two hours.

Anton Lazarus, spokesman at the green lobby group European Environmental Bureau, said noone should expect a solution to air pollution at the summit - but the meeting did serve a purpose.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that this summit is not about finding a solution [immediately], but about politicising the issue," he said.

According to Lazarus, Tuesday's summit is more about putting the issue of air pollution on the agenda, and putting pressure on member states that are failing to reach EU air quality standards.

"He is hauling ministers in to explain," said Lazarus about European environment commissioner Karmenu Vella.

"It's about making a statement," he added, saying that two hours will be enough for that.

According to Lazarus, air quality seems to have become a political issue for the commission, which is slowly nearing the end of its mandate as EU citizens go to the polls for a new European Parliament in May 2019.

"Great - people are now talking about air pollution," he said.

Vella has invited ministers from nine EU member states that are some of the bloc's worst offenders: Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom.

Of the EU's 28 member states, air quality standards are failing to be met in 23 countries. In the case of 19 of those, the commission has pulled out its legal tool known as the 'infringement procedure' to try and make them comply.

The nine countries invited for Tuesday are in the last step of the procedure before the commission would have to refer their cases to the Court of Justice of the EU, which ultimately could fine them.

Environmental campaigner Lazarus stressed that Tuesday's meeting should not be at the expense of that legal procedure.

"We expect the commission to continue to send governments to court for their failure on air pollution. There has to be a limit to the number of 'final warnings' these ministers receive," his organisation said last week in a press statement.

Not all the nine EU countries send their top officials.

The Czech Republic, Germany, France, and Italy will send environment ministers, but Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, and the United Kingdom will be represented by state secretaries from the environment ministries.

Regardless of their rank though, some question whether the environment ministries are actually the ones that need a public scoulding.

Air pollution has a variety of causes, but most of them are not in the remit of environment ministries.

Rather, air pollution is caused by several sectors of the economy, like agriculture and energy, or by citizens' own means of transport.

Dieselgate

Dirty diesel passenger cars are one cause.

Following the diesel emissions cheating scandal, it became clear that the EU commission's environment directorate was aware that diesel cars were emitting beyond EU limits, but it was unable to convince the commission's industry directorate – which was responsible – to take swift action.

The consequences are enormous. Every year, air pollution causes more than 400,000 premature deaths, according to the European Environment Agency.

It has also led to several court cases across the bloc. Just last week, UK group ClientEarth was back in court for its years-long struggle to get the UK government to do more to clean up air quality.

Focus

Air pollution, Europe's largest environmental health hazard

While the health of hundreds of thousands of Europeans' are affected each year by air quality issues, the EU and its member states struggle to implement and comply with legislation that aims to reduce air pollution.

Pro-EU network teams up with VW for integrity event

European Movement International will host an event titled 'Integrity, transparency, and good corporate citizenship' in co-operation with Volkswagen Group, which carried out large-scale emissions fraud.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel: Nord Stream 2 pipeline poses 'no danger'
  2. Spanish king in Barcelona next week
  3. Turkey jails journalists for life
  4. Make budget cuts in farm and regional funds, the Dutch say
  5. UN: Hungary's anti-migration bill is 'assault on human rights'
  6. Journalist Deniz Yucel freed in Turkey
  7. New organic farming bill not ready until late spring
  8. Commissioner: Western Balkans in EU is 'obvious'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAA year ago UNESDA members pledged to reduce added sugars in soft drinks by 10%
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  3. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  4. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  5. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  7. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  8. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name
  9. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February
  10. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  12. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health

Latest News

  1. EU asks charities to explain anti-abuse measures
  2. ECB, Budget, EU elections This WEEK
  3. EU states stay mute on implementation of mercury bill
  4. Baltic states demand bigger EU budget
  5. Germany raises concerns over Hungary's 'Stop Soros' bills
  6. EU ties Brexit transition talks to divorce agreement
  7. EU divided over Western Balkan enlargement
  8. Facebook and Twitter weak on protecting users, says EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  2. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  3. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  4. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  5. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  7. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  8. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission
  9. Dialogue PlatformWhat Can Christians Learn from a Global Islamic Movement?
  10. European Jewish CongressEJC President Warns Europe as Holocaust Memory Fades
  11. European Free AlllianceNo Justice From the Spanish Supreme Court Ruling
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects