EU Suing France, UK and Germany over Air Pollution Levels

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The European Commission on Thursday referred six member states to the European Court of Justice for repeated failures to tackle air pollution. Action is also being taken against France, Germany, Italy, Hungary and Romania.

Environment commissioner Karmenu Vella said: "The member states referred to the court today have received sufficient "last chances" over the last decade to improve the situation".

The EU introduced limits for particulate matter (PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in 2010.

Today's announcement should surprise no one, the countries being sent to the court have had too many final warnings", said European Environmental Bureau Air Quality Policy Officer Margherita Tolotto, who added that "it is essential to understand why some governments, but not others. have been sent to court today.

"We will shortly build on our £3.5bn plan to tackle roadside emissions with a comprehensive Clean Air Strategy setting out a wide range of actions to reduce pollution from all sources".

"This announcement is good news for all those suffering from chronic air pollution", said Ms Lucas. But legal action alone will not solve the problem.

Pressure has increased on Italy's environment minister ahead of a crucial meeting in Brussels after the World Health Organisation revealed that three Italian cities are the worst in Europe in terms of air pollution and smog.

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Ministers were forced by United Kingdom courts to improve the plan in February, after losing in the high court for the third time to environmental lawyers ClientEarth, and have until the end of 2018 to implement the stricter measures.

The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Spain were also facing infringement proceedings - these remain open, but for now, they have not been referred to the Court of Justice of the EU. Of the measurements cited in the referral, the UK's recorded NOx concentrations of 102µg/m3 in London were the highest of the offending countries.

He said the member states being taken to court had been repeatedly warned to clean up pollution as soon as possible.

European Union judges in Luxembourg will be able to hit Britain with huge fines under the bloc' "infringement proceedings".

The four countries now have two months to reply before further infringement action will be taken.

A summit was held in January to offer the countries a chance to find solutions to their air quality problems, but none offered "credible, effective and timely" solutions.