Only three out twenty-six large European cities are fully in compliance with EU air-quality standards. This can be concluded from the 2006 Urban Ecosystem Europe Survey, drawn up for Belgian bank Dexia by research institute Ambiente Italia.

The survey comes one week ahead of a key vote on air quality in the European Council. The survey was published on 17 October. It analysed the extent of urban environmental sustainability in 26 large European cities by looking at 20 environmental indicators, covering topics such as:

  • air quality;
  • the availability of pedestrian areas;
  • the availability of public transport networks.

The survey report says air quality is still "one of the critical elements common to all large cities" with only Helsinki, Gothenburg and Heidelberg in full compliance with EU air-quality standards. In 77% of cities monitored, concentration of PM10, a fine dust particle, are above allowed levels for more than 35 days per year. But warm weather also seems to be a key factor: Barcelona, Milan, Nicosia and Rome record the highest values for PM10 while cities in northern Europe fare better.

The report comes a week before of a directive on air quality is voted in the Council. The text was criticised by the Commission and environmental groups for being watered down after it went through Parliament in September.

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