Implementing clean air rules the eternal problem, as EU countries told to raise game

(EurActiv, 28 Nov 2019) Industry, agriculture and transport were asked to decrease air pollution at a high-level EU forum in Slovakia on clean air but the responsible ministers and new Commissioners were absent from the Bratislava event on Wednesday (27 November).

“The problem is pretending that this is an environmental problem. This is the problem of industry, transport, agriculture as well as our taxation system,” outgoing environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella said as he opened the EU Clean Air Forum in Bratislava.

The Slovak capital is hosting the second edition of the Commission-supported and cross-sectoral event on air pollution. The first such forum took place in 2017 in Paris.

According to Slovak Environment Minister László Sólymos, Central and Eastern European countries share “identical problems”: energy poverty linked to burning harmful low-cost fuels; energy intensity of industry; and under-investment in agriculture.

Although Commissioner Vella reassured the international audience air quality is a priority for the incoming EU executive and its president-elect, the forum was marked by the absence of the officials who will guide policy for the next five years.

Commissioners-elect for climate and environment Frans Timmermans and Virginijus Sinkevičius may only take office on 1 December, but the Dutchman had previously appeared at conferences and the Lithuanian official had met activists in Brussels.

In Bratislava, the event was meant to be opened by Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini but failed to show up. There was no immediate explanation for the no-show or the lack of appearance by Slovak ministers for troublesome sectors like industry, transport and agriculture.

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EurActiv, 28 Nov 2019: Implementing clean air rules the eternal problem, as EU countries told to raise game