CJEU rules that Poland has broken EU rules on air quality

The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that Poland has infringed EU law on ambient air quality. At this stage no penalties have been imposed, though the European Commission (EC) can motion for them.

In its Thursday ruling, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) said that Poland "regularly exceeded, first, the daily limit values for PM10 concentrations in 35 zones and, second, the annual limit values for such concentrations in nine zones," adding that "the exceedance thus established must be regarded as persistent."

Particulate matter PM10 are tiny airborne particles caused by the burning of fossil fuels, including in home furnaces and motor vehicles.

The issue relates to a 2008 EU directive that defines acceptable pollution levels and the alarm threshold for protection of health. Its aim is to force member states to maintain air quality levels that do not threaten human health. In taking Poland to the CJEU, the EC raised the alarm that excessive concentrations of particulate matter represented a serious health threat. 

"(...) 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," the court wrote in its ruling.  

The EC brought an action before the court against Poland because it believed the country had failed to transpose the directive on daily and annual limits of PM10. The regulation states that in the event of a breach, air quality plans must specify actions to ensure that the breach is as short-lived as possible. 

Based on data presented by Poland, the court ruled that between 2007 and 2015 inclusive, daily PM10 values were exceeded in 35 out of 46 zones and the annual limits were exceeded in nine.