The European Commission has decided today to refer Greece to the Court of Justice of the European Union regarding 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.
Greece has not respected the daily limit values for PM10 concentrations, which have been legally binding since 2005. Greece has failed to fulfil its obligations to keep the exceedance period as short as possible and has not taken adequate measures for the reduction of the PM10 concentrations in the agglomeration of Thessaloniki. Data provided by Greece confirms the systematic exceedances in the agglomeration of Thessaloniki in fourteen years since 2005 (all years with the exception of 2013). In 2019, the latest year for which data is currently available, exceedances above the limit value were recorded on 67 days. The Commission considers that efforts by the Greek authorities have to date been unsatisfactory and insufficient.
The European Green Deal, aiming to steer the EU towards a Zero Pollution ambition, puts emphasis on cutting air pollution, which is among the key factors 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.
Based on the principle of subsidiarity, EU legislation on ambient air quality 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. This type of pollution is the cause of serious illnesses such as asthma, cardiovascular problems and lung cancer.
Particulate matter is a mixture of solid and liquid particles suspended in the air. Particulate matter (PM10) is mainly present in emissions from industry, traffic and home heating, but is also produced by emissions from agriculture.
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