Friday

18th Jan 2019

Poland and Greece broke EU environment laws, rules court

  • Environmental activists demand clean air in Krakow, Poland, 2015 (Photo: Greenpeace Polska)

The Court of Justice of the EU has reprimanded two member states for not protecting the environment, in separate rulings on Thursday (22 February).

It said that Poland has broken EU law by failing to improve air quality, while Greece did not fully comply with a previous court ruling on urban waste water treatment.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The court gave Greece a €5m fine, to be paid into the budget of the EU. It also threatened to continue handing out fines twice a year until Athens improves the situation.

The two cases are unrelated, but each highlight how environmental policies agreed in Brussels are not implemented in member states.

Poland: air quality

The case on Poland was about Warsaw's inability to keep levels of particulate matter (PM10) within EU limits.

The relevant EU rules on maximum levels of air pollution had been in place since 2010, but Poland's breach of those levels had been "persistent", according to a press statement from the court.

"In today's judgment, the court notes first of all that the fact of exceeding the limit values for PM10 concentrations in the ambient air is sufficient in itself to establish a failure to fulfil obligations," it said.

The court acknowledged that Poland had put in place plans to improve air quality, but said that the self-imposed deadlines for achieving better air quality – between 2020 and 2024 – were too far in the future.

Poland has said that it was difficult to combat air pollution in some areas because of "the socio-economic and financial challenge of the major technical investments to be carried out", the court said.

According to analysis from the European Environment Agency, air pollution is a particular problem in the winter season, because of emissions from domestic heating.

But the court said that those difficulties were "not exceptional" and could not be an excuse for not having a shorter deadline.

It is the second such ruling on the air quality directive. Last year, the court ruled similarly in a case against Bulgaria.

Poland now needs to improve the situation, just as Bulgaria had been ordered to do.

If the European Commission finds that they does not do enough to comply with the court ruling, it could refer them back to the court, which could then hand out a fine.

Greece: Urban waste water

That latter is exactly what the court did on Thursday with Greece.

As far back as 24 June 2004, the court said that Greece did not comply with EU rules on collecting urban waste water from the Thriasio Pedio area, west of Athens.

The requirements from the EU's urban waste water directive, on activities like sewage and rainwater drainage, should have been implemented as of 31 December 1998.

The commission had set a new 2010 deadline for Greece to comply, which it also missed.

Even now, the court said, the waste water of almost half of the population of the area is not yet processed according to the European rules.

The court said the delay of almost two decades was "an aggravating factor", although it acknowledged that there have been improvements.

It also said that archaeological findings make it difficult to make progress, and that Greece had "a reduced ability to pay as a result of the economic crisis which it experienced".

The court decided that Athens should pay a €5m fine. On top of that, it will determine every six months whether the situation has improved.

If it has not, it will give a €3.3m fine for every six-month period – or a lower fine if the situation has partially improved but the requirements are not completely met.

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

EU environment commissioner Karmenu Vella has invited environment ministers in to explain why their citizens are suffering from air pollution - but he may have picked the wrong ministers, with transport, energy and agriculture the biggest culprits.

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.

EU states dragging heels on landmark water law

A major review of EU water management law later this month is expected to show that several EU states are not living up to a timetable to secure clean drinking water and aquatic habitats in Europe for decades to come, but the past seven years of work has created a new legal toolkit and pushed knowledge forward.

News in Brief

  1. Another referendum 'would take a year', Downing St says
  2. 82-year old Berlusconi to run in EU elections
  3. EU parliament votes to triple funds for democracy promotion
  4. EU parliament backs linking budget payments to rule of law
  5. Verhofstadt voted for Draghi amendment 'by mistake'
  6. 'Plan B' Brexit vote in UK parliament set for 29 January
  7. Verhofstadt wanted Draghi out of G30 group
  8. Putin heads to Serbia amid warnings against West

Stakeholder

COP24 Nordic Pavilion: sharing climate solutions with the world

The Nordic Pavilion at COP24 is dedicated to dialogue – TalaNordic – about key themes regarding the transition to a low-carbon society, such as energy, transport, urban futures, the circular economy and green financing.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  2. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  3. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  4. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  5. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party
  6. On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?
  7. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  8. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us