BRUSSELS, April 5 Europe's highest court on
Wednesday said Bulgaria had breached limits for hazardous air
pollutants, a ruling environmental groups said would help in
their efforts to force countries to take action over poor air
The European Court of Justice said higher concentrations of
particulate matter - small dust particles blamed for breathing
problems and heart disease - recorded at several sites in
Bulgaria from 2007 to 2014 showed severe breaches of EU clean
air quality rules.
There were no fines attached to the ruling.
Apart from Bulgaria, the European Union executive has begun
legal action against 15 countries over breaches of air quality
standards, including particulate matter. The ECJ is currently
reviewing a case against Poland.
The ruling, the first time the Court has endorsed EU air
pollution rules, was seized upon by campaigners as a precedent
for other cases.
"The Court of Justice has opened the door for major progress
in Europe's fight for clean air and clarified that people's
health comes first," Ugo Taddei, a lawyer for ClientEarth, said.
Bulgaria will now have to work with the European Commission
to improve the situation.
The Commission has estimated premature deaths attributable
to air pollution in 2013 at 13,700 in Bulgaria and around
400,000 in the EU as a whole.
(Reporting by Robert-Jan Bartunek. Editing by Jane Merriman)