By Eline Schaart and Louise Guillot
The European Commission last year proposed lowering the maximum levels of some air pollutants in line with World Health Organization recommendations to prevent damaging impacts on health. But with many countries facing legal proceedings on air quality, environment ministers were divided on how far to commit to that aim.
The compromise text adopted by ministers today states: “[The Council] welcomes the Commission’s intention to propose a revision of air quality standards and looks forward to discussions on such proposals, including on a possible closer alignment of the EU air quality standards with the WHO air quality guidelines, which are currently being revised and updated.”
The language was put forward by the Croatian presidency of the Council of the EU after a proposal by the Netherlands and Austria, which would have contained stronger wording, failed to find sufficient support.
Croatia’s Environment Minister Tomislav Ćorić said that the adopted text “provides a more proactive approach, which was asked by some delegations, without upsetting the overall delicate balance of the overall text as demanded by many of you.”
Countries stressed that air pollution remains the most important environmental cause of health problems in the EU, which is estimated to cause more than 400,000 premature deaths each year.