Cluster i: Improving Implementation of EU Environmental Law (Permitting, Inspection, Enforcement and Smarter Regulation)



The Cluster derived from working group 1 that was established at the beginning of the IMPEL network. Later it was decided to call it Cluster: “Training and Qualification”. The Cluster Training and Qualification was renamed in 2005 into: “Improving permitting, inspection and enforcement”. In 2011, this Cluster merged with the Cluster Better Regulation that was founded in 2004. The name of the new Cluster is Improving Implementation of EU Environmental Law (Permitting, Inspection Enforcement and Smarter Regulation), in short, Cluster I.


The cluster works on practical and technical aspects of permitting, inspection, enforcement and smart regulation as these relate to capacity building, improving methodologies and development of good practices and improvement of the applicability of European environmental law. This includes:

  • training and exchange of experience,
  • comparison, evaluation and development of good practices for permitting, inspection and enforcement,
  • benchmarking (against an agreed level) of operation and performance of environmental authorities,
  • promotion of twinning,
  • development of performance indicators,
  • developing new approaches for the implementation of EU environmental law,
  • assessing the applicability and enforceability of pieces of EU environmental legislation under development with the IMPEL check list on smarter regulation.

Objectives & function

The Cluster is an informal forum for discussion where all IMPEL members, IMPEL secretariat and the European Commission are welcome to participate. The objectives of the Cluster are to develop new project ideas within the framework of the IMPEL Multi Annual Strategic Programme, to act as a reference group, steering group or quality review forum for projects and to act as a think-tank for IMPEL primarily within the Cluster’s scope. The objectives of the Cluster are stated in the Cluster Fiche.

The Cluster discusses project ideas and reviews the progress of projects as well as the quality of final project reports within its remit. It gives recommendations to the General Assembly as to the support of project proposals, the prioritisation of projects and the approval of project reports.

The Cluster meets twice a year in advance of IMPEL General Assemblies and provides a forum by correspondence for matters arising outside this cycle. The agendas and minutes of Cluster I meetings including lists of participants can be found in the Library section of Cluster I.

Achievements & areas of work

Development and Implementation of the RMCEI

The Cluster has played a very important role in the development of the Recommendation 2001/331/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 April 2001 proving for minimum criteria for environmental inspections (RMCEI). The text of the Recommendation was based on the guidelines which the Cluster had produced earlier. Since the adoption of the Recommendation the Cluster has supervised the execution of a series of projects aiming at promoting good practice on environmental inspections within the framework of the RMCEI. These projects facilitated an extensive exchange of experiences between environmental inspectors from different countries and resulted in numerous guidance documents on environmental inspections. For example a Management Reference Book for Environmental Inspectorates was published. Guidance was produced on Best Practices concerning Training and Qualification for Environmental Inspectors. Also a Step by step Guidance book was developed on planning and prioritising of environmental inspections, called “Doing the right things”, followed by training and implementation workshops. Based on these works the IMPEL project easyTools recently developed a flexible, open-source IT tool for risk assessment in inspection planning within environmental authorities.

In the framework of the ongoing review of the RMCEI the Commission requested the input of IMPEL on how the Recommendation was perceived and if and how it should be further developed. Thereupon the project ‘IMPEL Input to the further development of the RMCEI’ produced a report with conclusions on the further development of the RMCEI including specific proposals for the modification of the text of the RMCEI.

Furthermore, the RMCEI contains the invitation to IMPEL “…to consider the establishment of a review scheme, under which Member States report and offer advice on inspectorates and inspection procedures.” This has been taken up by IMPEL by establishing the successful IMPEL Review Initiative (IRI) Scheme. The IRI scheme is a voluntary scheme developed by the IMPEL Network providing for informal reviews of environmental authorities in IMPEL Member countries. The IRI is intended to enable the environmental authority and the Review Team to explore how the authority carries out its tasks. It aims at identifying areas of good practice for dissemination together with opportunities to develop existing practice within the authority and authorities in other IMPEL Member Countries. A significant number of authorities have already been reviewed over the last 11 years. IMPEL continues to review more environmental authorities under the IRI Scheme.

Implementation of the IPPC-Directive / Industrial Emissions-Directive

Another core issue to the Cluster is the implementation of the EU Directive concerning integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC-Directive) and its successor the Directive on Industrial Emissions (IED), respectively. A range of projects related to many different aspects of these directives like issuing permit requirements related to energy efficiency, waste, emissions to air and monitoring and reporting, the process of integrated permitting, the use of general binding rules as an alternative to permitting, changes in industrial operations, the consideration of health aspects, reconsideration and updating of permits, the use of BREF’s, the inter-relationship between the IPPC-Directive and other EU Directives etc. Some projects focus on specific (industrial) sectors like cement plants, tanneries, food processing and production and pig farms. IMPEL now supports the implementation of the IED with projects on the revised permitting and inspection requirements.

Activities related to the Seveso Directive

Under the title: “Lessons Learnt from Accidents,” France leads an ongoing series of projects linked to the EU directive on the control of major-accident hazards (Seveso II Directive). Under these projects seminars have been organised to examine industrial accidents with an impact on the environment. The seminars aim at providing support and guidance to environmental authorities when evaluating causes and consequences of accidents and developing industrial accidents and developing strategies to combat and prevent these accidents.

Improve practicability and enforceability of environmental legislation

Under responsibility of the Cluster a number of projects were carried out to inform the European Commission’s review of the IPPC Directive on how to improve the practicability and enforceability from a regulators point of view. Also, several similar projects were carried out on the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. A very important milestone was the development of a Practicability and Enforceability Checklist to assess new and existing legislation. This Checklist together with the Barriers to good regulation Checklist of NEPA was used to assess the IPPC Recast and WEEE Recast proposals. Recently IMPEL and NEPA joint forces and merged their checklists into the IMPEL-NEPA Better Regulation Checklist. In 2009 a project was finalised by the Cluster, on applying better regulation principles in regulatory practice.

Assess new approaches to implementation

There is increasing interest in the European Union member states in using complementary interventions alongside traditional methods such as environmental inspections to improve the implementation and compliance of environmental legislation and deliver better environmental outcomes. In response to that interest a range of projects were carried out aiming at identifying and assessing new and complementary approaches to traditional implementation measures such as inspections. The project Exploring the use and effectiveness of complementary approaches to inspection for ensuring compliance was particularly interested in understanding the effectiveness of these approaches so that recommendations can be made about the cost-effectiveness of complementary approaches to inspection in ensuring compliance. Building on that the project Choosing appropriate interventions alongside inspections to ensure compliance and achieve environmental outcomes aims to develop a model approach for choosing interventions, in addition to inspections, with the aim of delivering improved compliance and the desired environmental outcomes.

Compare implementation practises; develop guidance and practical tools for implementation

Under the Cluster a series of projects were carried out with the aim of comparing practices in IMPEL member countries related to a range of other general topics like compliance promotioncriminal enforcement of environmental lawcomplaint procedures and access to justice for citizens and NGOs, methodologies used for fine estimation etc. Other projects focussed on the implementation of certain specific EU directives like the EU Directive on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment (SEA Directive) and the EU Directive on the limitation of emissions of volatile organic compounds due to the use of organic solvents in certain activities and installations (VOC-Directive).

A number of projects aimed at the development of practical tools to assist environmental authorities in implementing environmental legislation. The multi annual project on conflict resolution through neighbourhood dialogue is a good example of such a project. A neighbourhood dialogue is a voluntary long-term communication instrument to solve environmental problems and conflicts between industrial sites and their neighbours. In this project different ways of dealing with existing conflicts and the avoidance of conflicts were analyzed and a toolkit was developed for inspection authorities for the initiation and support of specific types of voluntary neighbourhood dialogue to address environmental problems as a complementary means for better enforcement.

More information on completed and running projects in Cluster 1 can be found on the Project Page.

Practical Information

  • Cluster meetings: meetings are announced in the diary
  • Cluster meeting documents (agenda and minutes): see the library under Cluster I
  • Cluster management:
    • The Cluster is chaired by Mr. Horst Buether (DE) and Mr. Simon Bingham (UK).
    • The Cluster Secretary is Ms. Nancy Isarin (IMPEL Secretariat).