Germany’s image as environmental trailblazer tarnished by court cases

Smog over Berlin. Germany has fallen foul of EU rules on air and water pollution in particular. [Shutterstock]

Germany likes to see itself as a pioneer when dealing with environmental issues, but when it comes to implementing European standards, Berlin is hardly a poster child. EURACTIV’s partner Der Tagesspiegel reports.

The European Union has opened 16 infringement procedures in total against Germany, for failing to implement environmental legislation on time or even at all.

Peter Meiwald, an environmental expert with Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, in a small inquiry, accused the Merkel government of being “serial sinners” when it comes to EU law on the environment and called on Berlin to “finally implement European rules on the protection of the environment, nature and citizens”.

The number of cases opened by Brussels against the Bundesrepublik has increased by two compared with last year. In some of the infringement procedures, Berlin is hoping that legislative amendments will be enough to get it out of trouble. But in other cases, Germany is going to have to go defend itself in front of the European Court of Justice.

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Germany is stuck in a downward trend at the moment. Since 2009, it has been hit with an increasing number of infringement cases year-on-year. Seven years ago, Brussels slapped Berlin with just eight cases. Perennial champions in this regard is the Netherlands.

It is interesting to note that Germany appears to have real difficulty managing air and water pollution, as well as nature conservation.

For example, Brussels was displeased with the sand and gravel mining that Germany had allowed in the Sylt Outer Reef nature site off its northern coast. The permit has since been withdrawn, but the company that has been affected has lodged a complaint.

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Moreover, the provisions of the Aarhus Convention mean that the general public must be granted access to information and be involved in decision-making processes on environmental issues. Germany has been accused of not fulfilling these requirements adequately enough.

Fine particles in the air are also a recurring problem. Germany’s cities have still not fully adapted and exhaust fumes continue to pollute the airways. The dieselgate scandal surrounding Volkswagen has only highlighted how much work there is still to be done.

Germany’s car industry is going to have to go through some serious changes if Berlin harbours any hopes of not appearing before an EU court again anytime soon.



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