The European Court of Justice understands that the city of Madrid and the Barcelona metropolitan area have breached pollution limits. This is what the European Court of Justice’s ruling this Wednesday on the Commission’s infringement complaint against Spain dictates. Spain must now demonstrate compliance with the directive to avoid the European Commission imposing a fine.
Indeed, there are cases where the European Commission can request the imposition of a fine from the very first declaration of non-compliance, but this was not the case: Brussels simply requested that Spain be declared non-compliant. From this, Spain has the obligation to comply with what the penalty says within the time limit set by Brussels, but if it is proven that the non-compliance continues, then the European Commission can file a second appeal (for double non-compliance) asking the Member State concerned to pay a lump sum and, usually in addition, Daily penalty payment for each day the non-compliance continues after the second decision.
A decision by which the Court of Justice of the European Union imposes a fine at the request of the European Commission cannot be appealed (judgments of the Court of Justice, unlike the General Court, cannot be appealed).
In a ruling issued this Thursday, the Court of Justice of the European Union declared Spain non-compliant, as requested by the Commission, on two specific issues. On the one hand, the Court understands that “Spain did not ensure that it did not systematically and continuously exceed, on the one hand, the annual limit for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from 2010 to 2018 in the metropolitan area of Barcelona and the city of Madrid, and from 2010 to 2017 in the Valles-Baix Llobregat district The value has been set and, on the other hand, from 2010 to 2018, in the area of the city of Madrid, the hourly limit has been set at NO2.”
In addition, the CJEU confirms that “Spain did not ensure the establishment of air quality plans to take adequate measures to make the period of exceeding the NO2 limit values as short as possible, since it was not adopted from 11 June 2010.” Appropriate measures to ensure compliance with these limit values in the metropolitan areas of Barcelona, Valles Baix Llobregat and the city of Madrid.
The Court of Justice recalls that the fact of exceeding the limit values established by the Directive on pollutants in the ambient air is sufficient in itself to declare a breach of the obligation to ensure their exceedance. The CJEU also notes that the data show that “annual and hourly threshold values were systematically and continuously exceeded”. In this sense, the Court of Justice points out that, contrary to Spain’s assertion, the violation may continue to be systematic and continuous even when the data collected highlight a possible partial downward trend, which, however, does not lead to the fact. that, as in this case, the Member State concerned complies with the threshold values which it must comply with.
A decade of failure
This procedure against Madrid was started in 2010 due to air quality violations. Three years later, the then mayor, Anna Botella, presented an air quality plan that was deemed insufficient by the European Commission. In 2014, the community’s executive authorities began procedures for opening a file of sanctions for non-compliance since 2010. In 2015, Spain was officially notified that the infringement procedure had been opened.
However, in September 2018, the process was halted when the Municipal Government of Manuela Carmena and Ahora Madrid presented Plan A for Air Quality and Madrid Central, which was launched in November 2018.
As a result, Spain gets a moratorium. But in July 2019, after municipal elections that brought José Luis Martínez Almeida to the mayor’s office against Madrid’s centrist campaign, the European Commission informed Spain in a letter that it was taking the case to the EU’s Court of Justice and returning. request further action.
As a result of the environmental policy of the current Madrid City Council, the city of Madrid was the only Spanish capital to fail to meet the pollution levels set by the European Union in 2021.
The commission accused Spain of violating the treaty Air Quality Directive So much so that the annual limit value for nitrogen dioxide NO2 has been systematically and continuously exceeded since 2010 in the Valles-Baix Llobregat area of Barcelona and Madrid.
The directive sets two limit values for nitrogen dioxide, both applicable from 1 January 2010.
The first threshold value has an annual reference, and the second one has an hourly reference. These NO2 limit values have already been established Directive on limit values for sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter and lead in ambient air.
According to the annual reports between 2010 and 2018, Spain systematically and continuously exceeded the annual limit values in the Barcelona zone, Valles-Baix Llobregat and Madrid.
If these threshold values are exceeded, states must adopt air quality plans in which they establish adequate measures to ensure that the period of exceedance is as short as possible.
The European Commission considers that in the adopted air quality plans, Spain did not provide adequate and sufficient measures to ensure that the period of exceeding the mentioned limits was as short as possible in the three affected areas.
Source: El Diario