European Commission takes Bulgaria to court again over poor air quality

The European Commission said on December 3 that it was referring Bulgaria to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for failing to implement an earlier ECJ ruling, which found that the country had breached its obligations under the EU’s ambient air quality legislation.

The ECJ ruled in April 2017 that Bulgaria failed both to keep air pollution below the limits stipulated by the EU’s Directive 2008/50 and in its obligation to keep the period during which pollution levels exceed mandated norms as short as possible.

“As this is a referral to Court following non-compliance with a Court judgment, it may result in penalties for the time elapsed after the first judgement until achieving compliance. In order to comply with the judgement, Bulgaria is expected to adopt and implement a series of legislative and administrative measures,” the European Commission said.

The Commission did not specify what those measures should be, but noted that Bulgaria recorded some of the most severe cases in the EU of exceeding both annual and daily limit values for PM10 particulate matter, which is dust particles in the one-hundredth of a millimetre size range.

The court referral is the last stage in the EU infringement process. It was one of six infringement procedures against Bulgaria in the EC December infringement package.

In three ongoing cases, the Commission sent reasoned opinions, the second stage of the infringement proceedings, which included a “final warning to Bulgaria over systemic failures in its implementation of EU nature legislation.”

The Commission said that Bulgaria systematically neglected the cumulative impacts of existing and authorised plans and projects in the Natura 2000 network of protected areas, to the extent that this economic activity represented a major threat to conservation objectives.

Bulgaria also was sent reasoned opinions for not applying EU rules on the provision of EU-wide multimodal travel information services and failing to comply with all requirements of Directive 2004/54/EC, which sets minimum safety measures relating to the infrastructure and operation of tunnels.

Should Bulgaria fail to respond to the reasoned opinions within a period of two months, the Commission can take the cases to the European Court of Justice.

The EC also opened new infringement proceedings against Bulgaria by sending letters of formal notice – one for failing to maintain minimum emergency stocks of crude oil and another over Bulgaria’s failure to submit a national long-term renovation strategy under the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive.

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

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