EU environmental law compliance reviewed

Commission claims progress being made but commits to more, in latest bi-annual survey

Efforts to improve implementation of EU environmental laws yielded fruit during 1998 and 1999, according to a bi-annual review issued by the European Commission. "Many of the recommendations" of a 1996 communication on implementing Community environmental law "have been achieved," it concludes.

The review stresses, nevertheless, that law compliance on the ground remains insufficient, reflected by the high number of infringement procedures against member states. "For the future, whilst new legislation is certainly required, the key focus should be on implementation," it states.

This is the second specific review of environmental law compliance, following an initial report covering October 1996 to December 1997 (ENDS Daily 8 June 1999). A significant proportion is taken directly from the latest annual report on the application of all types of EU laws (ENDS Daily 5 July), but the document also goes into greater depth on environmental law developments during the period under review.

Of actions taken since the 1996 communication, the paper describes as "particularly gratifying" the progress made towards adoption of a non-binding Council recommendation on minimum criteria for environmental inspections. Proposed by the Commission in October 1996, the measure is currently close to finalisation (ENDS Daily 26 October).

Progress made by the EU's informal network of environmental inspectors, Impel, is also rated highly. The majority of its achievements can "undoubtedly...be seen as a success" and Commission funding as "money well spent," the review states. Following delays in funding for the network since 1997 and resulting "frustration," a "fresh impetus is now needed" to take forward the group's work, it adds.

The review lists the 14 environmental directives that were due to be transposed into national law by EU member states in 1998 and 1999, plus a full list of transposing measures notified by 30 March this year. Several of the directives have been in the spotlight for poor member state compliance, including directive 96/59/EC on disposal of PCBs and PCTs (ENDS Daily 23 November) and directive 97/11/EC amending the 1985 environmental impact assessment directive.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111, and Second annual survey on the implementation and enforcement of Community environmental law.

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