The European Commission reports the highest number of legal cases against member states for breaking environmental rules than for any other EU policy area. In its annual report on infringements, the commission mentioned it opened 175 new cases relating to environmental law in 2019, compared to 147 cases relating to the internal market, 83 to transport and 78 to justice and consumers, the next most common policy areas.
At the end of 2019, there were a total of 327 open infringement cases relating to the environment, the highest number of any area, in addition to 109 cases relating to energy. Worse, 52 infringement procedures relating to the environment were still open even after a ruling by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU).
Although the report does not provide a full breakdown of member states’ infringements by policy area, it does list a number of high-profile infringement cases relating to environmental rules. It notes that in 2019, the CJEU heard cases against Italy, Spain and Bulgaria for breaching nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide levels, and upheld infringement proceedings against France for nitrogen dioxide pollution.
After a check of its two Ambient Air Quality Directives, published in 2019, the commission noted it had 30 open infringement procedures against 20 member states for breaching limits on particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide.
In total, the commission launched infringement procedures against 17 member states last year regarding updates to the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive to “reduce administrative burden and improve the level of environmental protection”.
Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, in a foreword to the report, said officials will “remain vigilant” and “will be ready to take determined legal action if EU law is breached”.
Of the total infringement cases still open at the end of 2019, a majority related to incorrect transposition or bad application of directives, followed by late transposition and infringements of EU regulations, treaties or decisions.
Source: ENDS Europe; Monitoring the application of EU law, 2019 annual report (EC)