The environment ministers of the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom have been invited to Brussels on January 30 to find solutions to address the serious problem of air pollution. These nine member states face infringement procedures for exceeding agreed air pollution limits.

According to the European Commission, the meeting will be an opportunity for member states to prove that additional adequate steps will be taken to redress the current situation without delay and comply with European law.

“This meeting on air quality has been called for three reasons. To protect citizens,” said Karmenu Vella, the European Commissioner for the environment. “To clarify that if there is no improvement of air quality there are legal consequences. And to remind member states that this step is at the end of a long, some would say too long, period of offers to help, advice given, and warnings made. Our first responsibility as the Commission is to the millions of Europeans – young and old, sick and healthy – who suffer from poor air quality. Parents of a child suffering from bronchitis or a daughter of someone with pulmonary disease want to see improvements in air quality as soon as possible. For them, action plans with a 10-12 year timescale or ineffective plans are useless.”

As President Jean-Claude Juncker underlined in his State of the Union address in 2016, the aim is to deliver a Europe that protects.

Every year, more than 400,000 Europeans die prematurely as a consequence of poor air quality and many more suffer from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases caused by air pollution. In economic terms, bad air quality costs well over €20bn a year to the European economy, due to increased medical costs and reduced workers’ productivity.

According to the Commission, the nine member states invited to the meeting are those that have already received a Reasoned Opinion and for which the next stage in the infringement procedure would be a referral to the Court of Justice.