EU takes enforcement action on countries over pollution and type approval

22 May 2018

22 May 2018

The European Commission will step up its enforcement against seven member states who have breached rules on air pollution limits and type approval for cars.

The Commission is referring France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania and the UK to the Court of Justice of the EU for failing to respect agreed air quality limit values and for failing to take appropriate measures to keep exceedance periods as short as possible. The Commission is also issuing additional letters of formal notice to Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, and the UK because they have disregarded EU vehicle type-approval rules.

Commissioner for Environment, Karmenu Vella said: ′The decision to refer Member states to the Court of Justice of the EU has been taken on behalf of Europeans. We have said that this Commission is one that protects. Our decision follows through on that claim. The Member states referred to the Court today have received sufficient ‘last chances’ over the last decade to improve the situation. It is my conviction that today’s decision will lead to improvements for citizens on a much quicker timescale. But legal action alone will not solve the problem. That is why we are outlining the practical help that the Commission can provide to the national authorities’ efforts to promote cleaner air for European cities and towns.’

The Commission has referred France, Germany and the UK for failure to respect limit values for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and for not taking appropriate measures to keep exceedance periods as short as possible. Hungary, Italy and Romania are referred over persistently high levels of particulate matter (PM10). Limits set under EU legislation on ambient air quality had to be met in 2010 and 2005 respectively.

Clarification sought

Meanwhile, a statement issued by the Commission regarding type approval says: ′EU type-approval legislation requires Member states to have effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalty systems in place to deter car manufacturers from breaking the law. Where such a breach of law takes place, for example by using defeat devices to reduce the effectiveness of emission control systems, remedial measures – such as recalls – must be ordered and penalties must be applied.’

The Commission opened infringement proceedings against Germany, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom in December 2016 with regard to Volkswagen Group and sent letters of formal notice in July 2017 requesting further clarifications.

Now, the EU requires more information on the national investigations and legal proceedings related to these infringements. In addition, following the discovery of new cases of engine-management irregularities in several diesel cars (Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg and several Audi A6 and A7 vehicles) the Commission is asking Germany and Luxembourg, as the competent type-approval authorities, which remedial measures and penalties are envisaged. The Commission is also requesting clarifications from the UK on planned national legislation.

In May 2017, the Commission launched an infringement procedure against Italy for failure to fulfil its obligations under the EU vehicle type-approval legislation with regards to Fiat Chrysler cars. In the meantime, Italy took corrective measures by ordering the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles group to conduct a mandatory recall in the EU. Today, as part of the ongoing exchange, the Commission requests additional information on the concrete corrective measures taken, and penalties applied.