Environment Agency urged to seize new role

EU Agency should assess implementation of legislation says think tank

A leading expert on EU environmental policy has called on the European Environment Agency to take on more responsibility for overseeing implementation of European environmental law.

Director of the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), Nigel Haigh, said today that the Agency has wide enough powers to do more on its own initiative. He said that the European Commission does not have the resources to evaluate national implementation of EU legislation, and called on the Agency to take on part of the job.

Speaking in London during a parliamentary inquiry into the implementation and enforcement of EU environmental legislation, Mr Haigh emphasised the importance of implementation. "If I am convinced of anything," he said, "it is the need to build machinery to supervise [the implementation of EU legislation]. If the Commission cannot do it itself then it will have to ask the Agency to do it, or the Agency can do it on its own initiative."

According to Mr Haigh, the Commission has many good proposals for improving implementation of legislation, but "real problems of delivery". He said it is evident that the Commission does not have the capacity to supervise member states' implementation of legislation. There is also a certain amount of "buck-passing" between the legal and technical experts in the environment directorate as to whose responsibility it is to monitor implementation, he told the inquiry.

Mr Haigh said that he understood the Commission's reluctance to allow the Agency to formulate policy (ENDS Daily 12 February). Interviewed by ENDS Daily, he said that this should not prevent the Agency having a role in monitoring both the state of the environment and the state of action to protect the environment.

"The Commission's view is that the agency clearly has a job in investigating the state of the environment," he said. "However, there is a lot of uncertainty about how far it should go in getting information about the state of action to protect the environment.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the Agency has that power. The Commission may not like it doing that....It could go to the agency and say `we would like to do this, but we do not have the staff'; or the agency could say `stuff you, you are not doing it, we will do it'. There's a demand for something to be done."

Follow Up:
IEEP, tel: +44 171 799 2244.

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