Ozone smog: ministers agree to limit emissions from paints and varnishes

On 27 October, the Environment Council reached a political agreement limiting the emissions of volatile organic compounds in paints, varnishes and vehicle refinishing products.

The Council adopted the political agreement with the following amendments:

  • by 31 December 2008, the Commission will prepare a report that will examine the possible introduction of a further reduction of vehicle finishing products;
  • the Member States will have to present reports on their monitoring to the Commission 18 months after the dates for compliance with the new limits (mid-2008 for the first phase, and mid-2012 for the second);
  • in 2008, the Commission will review any new element in relation to the socio-economic impact of the application of phase II.


The Greek minister abstained because his country wanted climatic conditions in Southern countries to be taken into consideration. Athens also requested a special five-year derogation for the implementation of the Directive but this was refused.


Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals that can be emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids, such as paints, lacquers and cleaning supplies. They are one of the main sources of ground-level ozone pollution in hot summers.

In a report released on 24 October, the European Environment Agency warned that the European heatwave of the summer of 2003 led to the highest number of ozone incidents experienced in Europe for a decade. The Agency also underlined that this situation is likely to repeat itself in the near future.

In January 2003, the Commission presented a new proposal to reduce the content of VOCs in decorative paints and varnishes by about 50 per cent per year. The proposal aims to reduce VOC emissions by setting maximum values for the VOC content in certain categories of decorative paints and vehicle refinishing products. These limits would be introduced in two phases: the first from 1 January 2007, the second from 2010. The stricter limits would be mandatory for the marketing of these products within the EU. Member States would be obliged to set up a monitoring programme and would have to report regularly to the Commission on how they were implementing this legislation.


  • The Council will formally adopt this agreement as a common position after having taken into account the Parliament's first reading;
  • The proposal will then start its second round in the European Parliament.


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