Air Pollution: Case C-171/04 Commission v Netherlands

Judgement was given in the above cases on 14 April 2005. Both concerned failures by the Netherlands to transpose the requirements of European Directives relating to the environment.

In the first case, the Netherlands was found to have failed in its obligations to transpose Directive 2000/69/EC relating to limit values for benzene and carbon monoxide in ambient air and Directive 2001/81/EC on national emission ceilings for certain atmospheric pollutants.

The period for implementing Directive 2000/69/EC expired on 13 December 2002 and the period for implementing Directive 2001/81/EC expired on 27 November 2002.

Following a reasoned opinion issued to the Netherlands by letter dated 11 July 2003 advising of the failure in implementation, the Dutch Government tried to argue that while formal transposition had not taken place, existing administrative practices were in place which accorded to the requirements of the Directive.

However, such practices, which by their very nature could easily change, could not be regarded as a valid means of transposing the requirements under the Directives, and the Netherlands was therefore held to be in breach of both Directives 2000/69/EC and 2001/81/EC.

The second case concerned Directive 2001/80/EC on the limitation of the emissions of certain pollutants in the atmosphere from large combustion plants. Again, the Netherlands, following a reasoned opinion issued to the Dutch government on 11 July 2003, was found to have failed to adopt the necessary laws, regulations and administrative provisions to comply with the Directive.

While national provisions in order to implement the Directive were planned for the beginning of 2004 and due to come into force by the end of 2004, the deadline for transposition of the Directive had expired on 27 November 2002, and this was outwith the 2 month period provided for in the reasoned opinion. The Netherlands was therefore held to have failed to adopt the necessary laws, regulations and administrative provisions to comply with Directive 2001/80/EC, and ordered to pay the costs of the action.

Both cases are currently unavailable in English though can be found in Dutch and French at: CURIA

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