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Brussels rules out sending Spain to court over poor air quality

Ecologists in Action critical of European Commission decision and condemns “inaction” of Spanish authorities


17 May 2018 06:44 PM


ACN | Barcelona

Brussels will not take Spain to court over poor air quality in the urban areas of Barcelona and Madrid. While Spain has not totally addressed its air pollution problems, the European Commission (EC) has for the moment ruled out referring Spain to the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

Along with Slovakia and the Czech Republic, Spain avoided legal action after promising measures at a summit in January that would allow it to comply with EU air quality rules and “tackle the identified gaps, if correctly implemented,” said an EC statement.

Yet, the Commission warned it “will continue to closely monitor the implementation of these measures as well as their effectiveness in redressing the situation as soon as possible.” The EU will begin proceedings against France, Germany, Italy, the UK, Hungary and Romania.

The EU decided to get tough with member states after figures showed that more than 400,000 citizens die prematurely due to poor air quality, with millions suffering respiratory and cardiovascular problems. Spain’s main problem is with an excess of nitrogen dioxide from vehicles.

The European Commission has warned Spain of its failure to comply with air quality rules on numerous occasions, most recently in February 2017. The EU has identified three areas with excessive air pollution, two of them in the Barcelona area, and one in Madrid.

NGO accuses Spain of “inaction”

Ecologists in Action accused the EU of encouraging Spain to continue flouting air quality rules. The NGO called the management of pollution by the Spanish authorities as “one of inaction,” despite 20,000 deaths a year caused by air pollution, according to European Environment Agency figures.

Despite the Spanish authorities issuing plans to improve air quality in the affected areas, Ecologists in Action says the plans are still to be “executed” and include “insufficient” measures that should have been implemented years ago. “We ought now to be at a much more advanced stage,” warned the NGO.


  • Air pollution in Barcelona (by ACN)

  • Air pollution in Barcelona (by ACN)