Damage to health: can citizens sue their governments?

The judges of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) founded that the EU legislation did not confer citizens’ right to sue the state. However, it stressed that individuals can force governments to take measures to comply with the EU-wide legislation concerning ecological limits to growth connected to air pollution.

Interesting enough that recent CJEU’s ruling goes against an opinion from one of its advocates general, Juliane Kokott, who acknowledged already in May 2022 that the EU member countries’ governments could be held liable for air pollution-related health damages. Supposedly, that was the consequence of the EU law general principle concerning human rights to healthy and safe environment, which is rather difficult to implement.
However, presently a prevailing legal opinion is such that citizens in the EU states cannot sue states over health damages due to pollution. Although hundreds of thousands of people suffer health problems due to illegally high levels of air pollution, they cannot take their governments to court and sue for damages, according to the CJEU’s ruling reached at the end of December 2022.
Dangerous disease that kills millions due to heavy pollutions of air and water, excessive noise, etc. in several big EU countries (e.g. in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, etc.) have repeatedly violated EU emission limits, causing hundreds of thousands of premature deaths every year, according to the European Environment Agency.
Yet unlike for the COVID-19 pandemic, governments have been reluctant to take the necessary measures to cut air pollution, in large part caused by traffic.

What are the perspectives?
The EU lawmakers are discussing whether to explicitly enshrine the right for individuals to ask their governments for compensation over health damages due to air pollution in legislation, as part of a wider revision of the Union-wide air quality and industrial emission rules.
People who have suffered health damages related to air pollution cannot take their country to court and sue for damages, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled at the end of December 2022.

“The European directives establishing norms for ambient air quality do not, as such, have the objective of conferring rights to individuals whose violation would be susceptible to open a right to compensation,” the court wrote in a press release.

But individuals can sue their state for not abiding by European rules on air pollution, and request that they “adopt the necessary measures,” the statement reads. The decision from the EU’s top court comes after the French administrative court of appeal in Versailles asked CJEU for its opinion before ruling on a related case, in which a resident of the Paris area was asking the French state for €21 million in compensation.
The French resident claimed his health declined because of the degradation of air quality in the Paris area that stemmed, according to him, from the French state’s breach of EU air quality rules.

The CJEU decision goes against an opinion from one of its advocates general, Juliane Kokott, who wrote in May that member states could be held liable for air pollution-related health damages.
The right for individuals to ask their governments for compensation over health damages due to air pollution is currently being discussed at the EU level, as part of a wider revision of the Union’s air quality and industrial emission rules.

Reference to: https://www.politico.eu/article/air-pollution-health-damages-european-union-court-rules/?utm_source=POLITICO.EU&utm_campaign=734bd97990-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2022_12_23_05_16&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_10959edeb5-734bd97990-%5BLIST_EMAIL_ID%5D

Note: Our Institute wishes our readers a very happy festive season, Merry Christmas and a wonderful New 2023 Year.
There’s no prize except for the gift of laughter, which is far more valuable than cash or booze.
Wishing all the best, the EII.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

3 + 6 =