European Commission published Action Plan to increase compliance with EU environmental rules

On 18 January 2018, the European Commission adopted a 9-point Action Plan to increase compliance with and improve governance on EU environmental rules on activities. The actions will be implemented over 2018-2019 with the help of EU countries and European networks of environmental agencies, inspectors, auditors, police, prosecutors and judges. The actions aim to:

  • help inspectors and law officers to combine forces, including through joint inspections and enforcement actions,
  • improve professional training,
  • provide guidance on combating environmental crime, complaint handling at national level, inspecting extracting waste facilities, compliance assurance in rural areas, and using satellite images and other spatial data to detect crimes like illegal waste disposal,
  • improve Commission information to Member States and practitioners.

Delivery of the actions involves a newly established high-level expert group, the Environmental Compliance and Governance Forum. This will be a platform for exchanging views on how to increase compliance and improve governance generally.

Key documents

European practitioner networks

European environmental inspectors, police officers, prosecutors, judges, auditors and heads of environmental protection agencies have formed separate networks to help them with their work. These networks, such as IMPEL, Envicrimenet, ENPE, EUFJE, EUROSAI and NEPA, enable knowledge, expertise and best practices to be shared and will also be involved in supporting the implementation of the Action Plan.

What is environmental compliance assurance?

The European Union has put in place rules to provide society with environmental benefits that include clean water, breathable air and a healthy nature. A recent Eurobarometer survey shows that an overwhelming majority of Europeans want the EU to make sure that these rules are applied across Europe.

Environmental compliance assurance describes all the ways in which public authorities promote, monitor and enforce compliance with such rules. It is part of environmental governance.

  • Promote means helping businesses and others to comply;
  • Monitor means using inspections and other checks to collect information about levels of compliance and provide solid evidence for enforcement;
  • Enforce means stopping those who disregard the rules, sanctioning them and obliging them to rectify the damage.

Promotion covers awareness-raising, guidance and advice. Monitoring covers routine environmental inspections, police investigations and environmental audits by public audit bodies. It also includes examination of complaints from the public. Enforcement covers audit recommendations, official warnings, cease-and-desist orders, administrative fines, criminal prosecutions and demands to take remedial action. Interventions may vary according to what works best.



Development of an assessment framework on environmental governance

In February 2017, the European Commission published for the first time an Environmental Implementation Review (EIR). The EIR aims to improve implementation in the field of EU environmental policy, by trying to identify the causes of implementation gaps, and to find solutions to them. The first round of assessment reports for the 28 Member States revealed a lack of sound methodologies for assessing the various aspects of environmental governance.

One of the actions in the 9-point Action Plan will address this. A project has already been launched with the main objective to develop a methodology for assessing the environmental governance performance of public administrations in each of the EU Member States. The assessment will cover areas such as transparency, accountability, rule of law, public participation and effective administration. It will link to global environment and sustainability governance initiatives, particularly the Sustainable Development Goals. The first workshop will take place on 27 February 2018.

Read and see more

Documents related to the 9-point Action Plan, including background studies, reports, and summaries of meetings and events. Updates will be provided as the Action Plan is implemented.

For broad insights, see:

Source: European Commission

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