Cyprus is one step away from being referred to the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) for non-compliance with EU air pollution laws.

Additionally, the commission has also included a new procedure against Cyprus regarding waste management.

Concerning air pollution the commission sent a reasoned opinion to the Republic, as well as Bulgaria, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Austria, Portugal, and Sweden, for failure to ensure correct implementation of their reduction commitments.

A reasoned opinion is a formal request to comply, explaining why the commission considers the country to be in breach of EU law, and requesting the country to inform the EU of measures taken to address the issue.

The air pollution infringement covers five important pollutants, as required by Directive 2016/2284, on the reduction of national emissions (NEC). These are nitrogen oxides (NOx), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), sulphur dioxide (SO2), ammonia (NH3) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5).

These pollutants contribute to poor air quality, leading to significant negative impacts on human health and the environment.

The set reduction targets are to be attained by each member state yearly between 2020 and 2029, with more ambitious reductions to be implemented from 2030 onwards. Member states are also required to establish national air pollution control programmes (NAPCPs) to show how their obligations will be met.

In January 2023, the commission had sent a letter of formal notice requesting further information to Cyprus, and thirteen other states, which fell short of their emissions reduction targets for 2020, for one or several of the pollutants included in the directive.

After considering the government’s response the commission concluded that Cyprus had failed to meet its commitments. Bulgaria, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Austria, Portugal and Sweden, were also deemed to be continuing to fail in this regard.

In the next procedural step, the commission issued a reasoned opinion to these countries, with a two-month response time to take necessary measures and report them to the EU.

In terms of waste management, the commission decided to open an infringement procedure by sending a letter of formal notice to Cyprus, as well as Bulgaria, Czechia, Estonia, Romania, and Austria, to address their shortcomings.

The amended directive establishes legally binding targets for recycling and preparing for reuse of municipal waste. It requires states to improve their waste management systems and efficiency of resource use.

The deadline for member states to transpose the directive into their national legislation expired on July 5, 2020.

According to the EU commission, Cyprus has fallen short in providing documentary evidence that the waste management operations have been carried out.

The affected member states now have two months to respond and address the shortcomings raised by the commission. In the absence of a satisfactory response, the Commission may decide to issue a reasoned opinion.