European Court of Justice finds against Bulgaria in air quality infringement case

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled against Bulgaria in a case brought by the European Commission against the country over its failure to implement measures to reduce air pollution.

In a ruling posted on the court’s website on April 5, the ECJ said that Bulgaria had failed to fulfil its obligations under EU’s Directive 2008/50 on ambient air quality, both with regard to keeping air pollution below the limits stipulated by the directive and it its obligation to keep the period during which pollution levels exceed mandated norms as short as possible.

Bulgaria has repeatedly scored the worst in the EU in terms of reducing the concentration of dust particles – specifically in the PM10 category, which tracks particulate matter in the one-hundredth of a millimetre size range – according to the EU’s annual air quality surveys.

In Bulgaria, despite a number of measures taken and some reductions in PM10 emissions registered at most monitoring points since 2011, the data shows persisting non-compliance with the annual and/or daily limit values for PM10 in all the country’s six zones and agglomerations other than in Varna, which complied with the annual limit value once (in 2009), the European Commission said in June 2015, when it referred the case to the ECJ.

Bulgaria had asked to be exempted from its obligation to meet P10 pollution limits for a period of two years in April 2009, a request that the EC denied in October 2010, sending a letter of formal notice and initiating infringement proceedings against the country. In June 2011, Bulgaria once again asked for an exemption.

A second letter of formal notice from the EC followed in January 2013, to which Bulgaria replied saying that it had adopted the necessary measures and PM10 pollution data was showing a downward trend. The Commission sent Bulgaria a reasoned opinion, the second stage in infringement proceedings, in July 2014, again arguing that Bulgaria failed to comply with the air pollution limits, to which Bulgaria replied re-iterating that pollution was on the decline, although still above the levels prescribed the EU directive.

The European Court of Justice ordered Bulgaria to pay the costs of litigation, but has not imposed any fine. Bulgaria has to comply with the EC’s request to implement measures to reduce air pollution and, should it fail to do so, the Commission could ask the ECJ to impose a fine.

(Smog over Bulgarian capital city of Sofia. Photo: dewfall/



The Sofia Globe staff

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