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Environment: Commission asks for views on revamping environmental impact assessments

Commission Européenne - IP/10/901   06/07/2010

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IP/10/901

Brussels, 6 July 2010

Environment: Commission asks for views on revamping environmental impact assessments

The European Commission has launched a wide public consultation in relation to the review of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) legislation. The consultation covers issues, such as the screening of projects for EIA, the quality of the EIA process, the harmonisation of assessment requirements among Member States, cross-border difficulties when projects affect more than one Member State, the role of the environmental authorities, and development of synergies with other EU policies, such as climate change and biodiversity. The findings of the consultation will feed into a Commission review next year. All interested parties – citizens, stakeholders and organisations involved in environmental assessments – are invited to respond to the public consultation by 24 September 2010. The questionnaire is available in all 22 Community languages.

Commissioner for Environment Janez Potočnik said: "Environmental Impact Assessments are one of our most important tools, because if the proper consultations are carried out when a project is launched, there is a much smaller risk of legal action at the end of the process. But we need to make sure that the form they take is suitable for a Europe with 27 countries. So I am looking forward to input from all sides, allowing us to examine these issues carefully and to work out what new measures might be needed."

A timely review of key legislation

Adopted 25 years ago, the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive should be updated to reflect changes in EU legislation and policy and case law of the European Court of Justice. The Commission has identified several areas where further improvements are needed. A review has therefore been launched, which should culminate in a new text that will also encompass new policy developments (e.g. in the sectors of climate change, energy and biodiversity) and implementation experiences. The revision will also streamline existing assessment procedures to the extent possible.

This public consultation, launched on 28 June, will run until 24 September 2010, with a view to collecting opinions on the application and effectiveness of the EIA Directive, the need to amend it, possible policy options and the areas to be improved. It takes the form of an online questionnaire (address below), which is available in all the official languages of the EU.

Focus of the consultation

The consultation seeks views on issues, such as the screening of projects for EIA (in view of considerable differences among Member States), the quality of the EIA process (e.g. data used in the EIA, assessment of alternatives), the harmonisation of assessment requirements among Member States, transboundary difficulties when activities affect more than one Member State, the role to be played by the environmental authorities, and development of synergies with other EU environmental legislation and policies, such as climate change, resource efficiency and biodiversity, which are not sufficiently covered by the Directive in its current form.

Background

Environmental Impact Assessments are designed to ensure that the environmental implications of decisions are taken into account before the decisions are made. Environmental assessment can be undertaken for individual projects, on the basis of Directive 85/337/EEC, as amended (known as 'Environmental Impact Assessment' – EIA Directive). The main principle of the EIA Directive is to ensure that projects likely to have significant effects on the environment are made subject to an environmental assessment, prior to their authorisation. The EIA Directive (85/337/EEC) has been in force since 1985, and applies to a wide range of defined public and private projects, such as power stations, roads, railway lines, waste installations, industrial installations, energy infrastructure.

More information

The consultation document is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/consultations/eia.htm

Information on the EIA Directive is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eia/home.htm


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