Noise: Commission decides to refer PORTUGAL and SLOVAKIA to the Court of Justice of the EU for their failure to map noise and draw up noise action plans

The European Commission is calling on Portugal and Slovakia to comply with the key provisions of Directive 2002/49/ECon the assessment and management of environmental noise. Noise causes ischaemic heart disease, disrupts sleep, impairs the cognitive system and produces stress; that is why EU rules on noise require Member States to adopt maps identifying the places with harmful noise within major agglomerations, or around major railway lines, roads and airports. The citizens and the authorities shall use these maps to define measures in an action plan to reduce noise which is harmful for health or to prevent it from becoming harmful. 

Portugal still has not made the strategic noise maps for 5 major roads (out of more than 500 such roads). It has also not yet drawn up the required noise action plans for two agglomerations (out of 6 in total), for 236 major roads (out of 555) and for none of the 55 major railways. 

Slovakia has failed to draw up the action plans for 445 major road segments (out of 622) and for all 16 major railway segments.

Deadlines for mapping noise exposure ended in 2012 and for drawing up noise action plans in 2013.  After these, the maps and plans must be reviewed every five years. Although the Portuguese and Slovak authorities have taken some actions to remedy the situation, the progress is slow. As it is unclear when full compliance can be expected in Portugal and Slovakia, the Commission has decided to refer both cases to the Court of Justice of the EU.


Noise caused by road, rail and airport traffic is the second main environmental cause of premature death after air pollution, and exposure is increasing. It is estimated that noise causes 12,000 premature deaths and contributes to 48,000 new cases of ischemic heart disease (caused by a narrowing of heart arteries) per year across Europe. It is also estimated that 6.5 million people suffer chronic high sleep disturbance.

Making noise maps helps to inform the public about the level of exposure to noise, which may be harmful to their health. Through the public consultations over the action plans the public can also verify and have their say on whether authorities take adequate measures to reduce noise levels where they may be harmful, or to prevent existing levels from becoming harmful.

Currently there are 10 other EU member States against which infringements are pending at various stages. These are Belgium, Cyprus, Czechia, Germany, Spain, Greece, France, Hungary, Italy and Poland. The next proposals will depend on the progress achieved by these Member States in finalizing the maps and plans.

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