Why this story matters:
In Hungary, politicians only seem to care about issues that could bring them votes in the next election. Reducing air pollution -- a costly and long-term action -- is not high on their agenda. Investing in the future has gone out of fashion.
Migration, corruption and nepotism: these are the most common words for Hungarians who dare to read independent news. But now Hungary and some other European nations could be taken to court if they refuse to improve air quality.
Other EU countries have made air quality a priority. I remember how clean the air was when I visited Stockholm. It was so striking that it was impossible to remain indifferent. I later learned that Swedes are quite proud of their achievements in reducing air pollution.
High on the clean air, I wondered: what kind of a fairyland (in other words, a fuctioning welfare state) allows a government to invest money and energy in air quality?
Looking at it from Eastern Europe, it seems like a fantasy.
Details from the story:
- Hungary, the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom could all face infringement procedures for exceeding the agreed limits of air pollution.
- The countries, if they fail to act, will be referred to the Brussels Court by the European Court of Justice because they have exceeded the EU's air pollution limits for years.
- The deadline for meeting the requirements was 2010. The European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries claims the EU has been waiting for too long for member states to meet the requirements.
- The specific problems in Hungary are increased levels of atmospheric particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide.
- Poor domestic heating practices play a big role in Hungary's air pollution. Many households cannot afford to heat with wood so they use plastic bottles, rubber and even textiles.