Air pollution: EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella threatens member states

Written by on January 31, 2018 in Europe - Comments Off on Air pollution: EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella threatens member states

“Welcome sulfur dioxide, hello carbon monoxide, the air, the air is everywhere. Breathe deep, while you sleep, breathe deep.” These are part of the lyrics of the song “Air” in the Broadway musical “Hair”. Particulate Matter was not included in the tune. But it is in the so-called air people breathe in Sofia and elsewhere in Europe. It was also included in the latest complaint from the EU Commission.

The European Union’s Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, threatened a number of member states with lawsuits on Tuesday, because of the dirty air they make their inhabitants breathe. Those countries, Czechia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Slovakia and Spain, now have to come up with proposals designed to clean up the air. And they should do so lightning-fast, if they want to avoid getting sued.

Bulgaria is not on the list for a simple reason: That country is already facing a decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union because of its systematic non-compliance regarding the permissible levels ​​of Particulate Matter in the air its citizens are supposed to breathe. In other words: Bulgaria is so bad in this regard, it isn’t even being blasted anymore.

After meeting the Environment Ministers of the other countries with grave air pollution problems, Commissioner Karmenu Vella said the efforts were about protecting citizens. “Every year, an astonishing number of citizens’ lives are cut short because of air pollution”, he said. “We have known this for decades, and the air quality limit values have been in place for almost as long.”

The commissioner brought his message across by mentioning the brutal truth: “Every year, 400,000 EU citizens die prematurely “because of a massive, widespread failure to address the problem. And many more suffer unnecessarily from air quality related diseases.”

Vella reminded the EU member states that the deadlines for meeting the legal obligations have long elapsed. But the Particular Matter concentrations still exceed defined maximum levels by far.

“Inaction has consequences. It has consequences for citizens and the polluted air they breathe. Member states have responsibilities. Responsibilities to act. Inaction also has legal consequences for the Member States in question”, the Commissioner indicated.

In the meantime in Sofia, the wind has blown away most of the Particulate Matter (PM), which had literally threatened the Bulgarian capital’s 1.3 residents. On Wednesday morning, the PM levels were mostly green, meaning breathing just became a healthy activity again.

But the problem has not been solved. The “Green Ticket” for Sofia’s public transport, which the Municipality tried to sell as a breakthrough, will hardly change anything, since that first direct measure it ever took against the toxic air is not bold enough.

The terrible air Sofia’s inhabitants had to breathe for several days, until Monday, and previously from January 5 to 8, will be back. It all depends on the wind.

A recent poll by Alpha Research shows that Bulgarians are not too optimistic regarding any improvement of the situation. According to the study, 70 percent of Bulgarians believe the institutions will not tackle the air pollution problem.

 

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