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Implementation of Community environmental law in 2004

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This study reviews the implementation of Community environmental law in 2004.

ACT

Commission staff working paper of 17 August 2005: Sixth annual survey on the implementation and enforcement of Community environmental law - 2004 [SEC(2005) 1055 - not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

1. The implementation of Community environmental legislation continues to improve. This is shown by the lower numbers of complaints received and infringement proceedings regarding the environment initiated by the Commission in 2004.

2. In 2004 the Commission received 336 new complaints and launched 583 new infringement proceedings, which is significantly fewer than the figures for 2003 which were 505 and 693 respectively. Despite this decrease the environment remains the sector with the most ongoing infringement proceedings.

3. In total, the study revealed 173 cases in which the Directives on the environment had not been transposed on time (non-communication), 103 cases in which Directives had been transposed incorrectly (non-conformity) and 294 cases in which Member States had failed to comply with obligations under the Directives (incorrect application), for example through failing to comply with the deadlines for presenting certain plans, submitting data or designating protected areas.

4. As in the previous year, the areas in which most infringement proceedings were launched are nature, waste, water and impact assessments. The breakdown is as follows:

  • cases of non-communication of information occur most frequently in the air and waste sectors;
  • cases of non-conformity with Community legislation mainly concern impact assessments, waste, water and nature;
  • cases of incorrect horizontal application arise particularly in the water, waste and nature sectors.

5. Following the accession of the ten new Member States in 2004, the Commission sent letters of formal notice to eight of them in December 2004, Latvia and Lithuania having already communicated all their measures for implementing the aquis in the area of the environment.

6. In addition to actions for non-conformity, non-communication or incorrect application, the Commission has used other approaches in dealing with the Member States in order to ensure that Community environmental legislation is correctly implemented. These are mainly proactive initiatives such as guidelines and interpretative texts, measures to monitor conformity with legislation such as annual reports and collecting key data, as well as research into the most appropriate (strategic, efficient and coordinated) solutions to achieve the environmental targets laid down in legislation.

Freedom of access to information

7. The Commission has sent a Reasoned Opinion to France for incomplete execution of a Court of Justice ruling against it for failure to comply with Directive 90/313/EEC on access to information. It also continued infringement proceedings against some Member States for incorrect application of the Directive.

Environmental impact assessment

8. The Court of Justice rules against the United Kingdom for incomplete transposition of Directive 85/337/EEC on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment. Furthermore, problems of non-conformity of national measures with this Directive and incorrect application of the Directive have persisted. The Commission has therefore issued Reasoned Opinions and decided to refer Italy and Spain to the Court of Justice. In addition, the Court of Justice has rules against national authorities for applying the Directive incorrectly. It should be noted that Directive 2001/42/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment had to be transposed by 21 June 2004.

Air

9. The Commission has closed a certain number of infringement proceedings concerning Regulation (EC) No 2037/2000 and Directive 2002/3/EC on ozone. The Commission has also opened infringement proceedings for failure to transpose the Directive establishing an emissions trading scheme for greenhouse gases, which should be transposed by 31 December 2003. Infringement proceedings have also been opened for other Directives concerning specific atmospheric pollutants.

Water

10. The Commission has opened several infringement proceedings for non-communication of transposition measures for the Water Framework Directive, which had to be implemented by December 2003. However, although a number of proceedings are ongoing against Member States due to bad application of Directive 76/160/EEC concerning the quality of bathing water, many Member States are now very close to full compliance with the quality standards and monitoring requirements laid down in the Directive. Furthermore, all Member States have now transposed Directive 98/83/EC on the quality of water intended for human consumption which repealed Directive 80/778/EC under which some proceedings are still underway. Several proceedings have been opened or have resulted in rulings being given against Member States for bad application of Directive 91/271/EEC concerning urban waste-water treatment and of Directive 91/676/EEC concerning the protection of waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources.

Nature

11. In August 2004 the Commission published a guidance document on hunting, the purpose of which was to clarify the requirements of Directive 79/409/EEC on the conservation of wild birds. Some conformity and transposition problems remain unresolved regarding the Wild Birds Directive and Directive 92/43/EEC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild flora and fauna. However, most of the problems with the implementation of these two Directives relate to their bad application, particularly in terms of designating special protection areas and sites of Community importance as well as a special protection scheme and protected species. Furthermore, rulings have been given against Austria and Italy for failure to transpose measures under the Directive on the keeping of wild animals in zoos.

Chemicals and biotechnology

12. A number of proceedings have been closed, including that against France for non-communication of transposition measures for Directive 2001/59/EC and Directive 98/8/EC as well as for non-conformity of national legislation with Directive 86/609/EEC on the protection of animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes. The Commission has also closed proceedings brought against Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain concerning Directive 98/81/EC on the contained use of genetically modified micro-organisms. The Court of Justice has also ruled against 6 countries for non-communication of transposition measures relating to Directive 2001/18/EC on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms.

Waste

13. Infringement proceedings have been opened for the bad application of Council Directive 75/442/EEC on waste, and the Court of Justice has ruled against several countries for this reason, particularly in relation to individual landfills and waste planning and management. The Court also gave preliminary rulings on some questions concerning the interpretation of the Framework Directive, in particular regarding the definition of waste and what the plans to be drawn up by the Member States should contain. In addition, there are still problems of non-conformity and/or of bad application for some Community texts such as the Directive on the disposal of waste oil, the Directive on hazardous waste, the Regulation on shipments of waste, the Directive on packaging waste, the Directive on the disposal of PCBs/PCTs and the Landfill Directive. Furthermore, problems of non-conformity have resulted in several Member States being condemned in respect of the Directives on end-of-life vehicles and on the incineration of waste.

Environment and industry

14. The Commission has continued infringement proceedings for non-conformity with Directive 96/61/EC concerning integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC). In addition, Directive 96/82/EC has still not been fully or correctly transposed by some Member States.

Network for the implementation of environmental law (IMPEL)

15. The IMPEL network is an informal network in which the environmental authorities in the Member States and the Commission participate. Its main objective is to encourage the effective implementation of Community environmental law. In 2004 the final report on the first IMPEL project on the transfrontier shipment of waste aroused a lot of interest among the official authorities and the media: the project, which aimed to standardise inspections in the six seaports participating, resulted in the creation of a contact network for enforcement activities, the detection of many illegal shipments and highlighted the need for an improved strategy on the transfrontier shipment of waste. In addition, IMPEL continues to work with other networks and has published several reports over the year.

Last updated: 08.09.2005
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