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Commission refers six countries to European Union court over foul air

Commission refers six countries to European Union court over foul air

The European Commission said Thursday it is taking Germany, France, and four other countries to the bloc's highest court for failing to comply with EU air quality standards.

"We have said that this commission is one that protects".

The Commission's action comes after several national legal cases against the United Kingdom government over air pollution.

The European Environment Commissioner, Karmenu Vella, said the EU "owed it to its citizens", to take legal action. If it does not, the court can then impose large fines.

"But it can not be in our interest to weaken the automobile sector to such an extent that it no longer has the strength to invest in its own future".

The commission has been urging the wayward countries to establish incentives for the transport, energy and agricultural sector as well as improve urban planning and building design to improve on pollution.

Action against the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Spain has not been pursued as measures being put in place in each of the countries, "appear to be appropriate, if implemented" the Commission has claimed.

But he warned the commission was keeping the three under review.

"Everyone in Europe has the same right to clean air, and when national governments fail to deliver EU protections, it's right that the European Commission steps in to protect us from the air we breathe".

The Commission is also issuing additional letters of formal notice to Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom on grounds that they have disregarded European Union vehicle-type approval rules. Air pollution requires urgent action and it's been clear for too many years that authorities all across Europe are failing to protect their people from illegal and harmful levels of air pollution.

Ministers from all nine countries were summoned to a meeting in Brussels in January to outline how they meant to meet their targets.

However, whilst the government has been keen to highlight that air quality is improving in some parts of the country, the announcement from Brussels has prompted criticism from several corners. The Commission has therefore chose to proceed with legal action.

The problem is also broader than with the nine countries, if not quite as dramatic.

As the announcement was being made, lawyers for Paris, Madrid and Brussels were in front of the European Court of Justice asking that the three cities be allowed to challenge vehicle emissions regulations set by the European Commissions and agreed by national governments.