Assessment of the environmental impact of projects - report
To examine the application and effectiveness of Directive 85/337/EEC on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment (EIA).
Report of 23 June 2003 from the Commission to the European Parliament and to the Council on the application and effectiveness of the EIA Directive (Directive 85/337/EEC as amended by Directive 97/11/EC). How successful are the Member States in implementing the EIA Directive? [COM(2003) 334 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
1. The report sets out findings concerning the application of Directive 85/337/EEC as amended by Directive 97/11/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment (EIA). Published five years after Directive 97/11/EC entered into force, it looks at the effectiveness both of the changes made by that Directive and of the EIA Directive as a whole.
2. The chief finding is that the main problem lies in the way the Directive is applied and not, generally speaking, in the transposition of its legal requirements.
3. Several aspects of the Directive's application need to be improved and strengthened. Initiatives are suggested for solving the problems which have been identified. To improve the way the Directive is being applied, the Commission invites the Member States to:
- remedy shortcomings in their national and regional legislation on environmental impact assessment;
- introduce records to provide annual information on the number and type of projects which have undergone EIA;
- make sure that systems with fixed mandatory thresholds (in relation to screening) are so designed as to ensure that all projects that might have significant effects are subject to an appropriate screening process;
- make more widespread use of the guidelines on environmental impact assessment and on screening, scoping (i.e. identifying the items on which an environmental impact statement is to focus), review and cumulative impacts;
- introduce formal provisions for the review of the environmental information supplied by developers;
- organise training for their regional and local authorities to improve their understanding of the EIA Directive;
- make more use of the guidance provided by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe in relation to environmental impact assessment.
4. For its part, the Commission will take the following five initiatives to improve the way the Directive is applied:
- it will consider the need for further research to improve screening (which consists in determining whether or not any given project requires an environmental impact assessment) and the use of thresholds, and to achieve a greater consistency of approach;
- it will prepare interpretative and practically oriented guidance on the EIA Directive, with the involvement of experts from the Member States as well as other stakeholders, such as non-governmental organisations, local and regional authorities and industry;
- it will consider what might be done to improve the training of officials responsible for EIA;
- it will take enforcement action in cases of incomplete or inadequate transposition and/or poor application of the EIA Directive;
- it will consider what further amendments to the Directive should be introduced.