Thodoris Chondrogiannos
Greece referred to the EU Court of Justice over air pollution
31 • 10 • 2021

In October 2021, the European Commission filed a lawsuit against Greece in the Court of Justice of the European Union, arguing that the country systematically and consistently violated its EU obligations to reduce nitrogen dioxide pollution in the atmospheric area of ​​Athens.

On October 14, 2021, the European Commission filed a lawsuit against Greece in the EU Court of Justice (Case C-633/21), maintaining that Greece has consistently failed to reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions in the Athens area. According to the Commission, the levels of nitrogen dioxide in the capital have for the last decade exceeded the limits set by EU legislation.

The applicant (the European Commission) asks the European Court of Justice to find two infringements by Greece.

First, by systematically and consistently exceeding the yearly limit values for nitrogen dioxide with regard to the agglomeration of Athens since 2010, it claims that Greece has failed to fulfil its obligations under Article 13 of Directive 2008/50/EC, read in conjunction with Annex XI to the directive,

With regard to this complaint, the Commission claims that the second subparagraph of Article 23 (1) of the Directive imposes a clear and urgent obligation on Member States in the event that limit values are exceeded to adopt air quality plans setting out appropriate measures to ensure that the duration of any exceedance is as short as possible. According to the Commission, Greece failed to draw up an appropriate air quality plan with regard to nitrogen dioxide covering the agglomeration of Athens, in breach of its obligation under Article 23(1) of Directive 2008/50/EC.

Where is the problem with the rule of law?

 As an EU Member State, Greece has a firm obligation to transpose and implement EU law, which aims to establish common rules of law throughout the Union and to protect the rights and public goods enjoyed by European citizens. 

However, according to the European Commission, in this case Greece systematically and consistently violated the rules provided for in Directive 2008/50/EC, in violation of the rule of law principles that require Member States to respect and enforce EU law, which in this case aims to improve quality of life by reducing air pollution in the Athens area.

Thodoris Chondrogiannos
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