The European Commission has decided today to refer Slovakia to the European Court of Justice over poor air quality due to high levels of particulate matter (PM10). When the limit values set by the EU's ambient air quality legislation (Directive 2008/50/EC) are exceeded, Member States are required to adopt air quality plans to ensure that appropriate measures are taken to keep the duration of the exceedance period as short as possible.
The European Green Deal with its Zero Pollution ambition puts emphasis on cutting air pollution, which is among the key factors negatively affecting human health. Full implementation of the air quality standards enshrined in EU legislation is key to effectively protect human health and safeguard the natural environment.
Slovakia has not respected the daily limit values for PM10 concentrations, which have been legally binding since 2005. Data provided by Slovakia confirms systematic exceedances of the daily limit values for PM10 in the air quality zone Banskobystrický kraj over the period 2005-2019 (except for 2016) and in the agglomeration Košice over the period 2005-2019 (except for 2015 and 2016).
The air quality measures, presented by Slovakia, have not proven to be timely and effective to reduce pollution within the agreed limits and they do not contribute to keeping the exceedance periods as short as possible, as required by EU law. Slovakia has therefore not taken adequate measures for the reduction of the PM10 concentrations in the air quality zone Banskobystrický kraj, the agglomeration Košice and the air quality zone Košický kraj.
The Commission is therefore referring Slovakia to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Based on the principle of subsidiarity, EU legislation on ambient air leaves to the Member States the choice of instruments to comply with the limit values set by EU legislation. Despite the obligation on Member States to ensure good air quality for their citizens, air pollution remains a problem in many places, with the situation being particularly serious in urban areas.
Air pollution remains the number one environmental health problem in the EU. According to estimates of the European Environment Agency, around 400 000 premature deaths can be attributed to air pollution each year in the EU.
Particulate matter is a mixture of solid and liquid particles suspended in the air. PM10 refers to particles with a diameter smaller than 10 micrometres, and is mainly present in emissions from industry, traffic and home heating, but is also produced by emissions from agriculture. This type of pollution is the cause of serious illnesses such as asthma, cardiovascular problems and lung cancer; it also affects plant growth and ecosystem processes, reduce visibility and decrease agricultural yields.
Current EU limit values for PM10 entered into force in January 2005.
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