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European Commission - Press release

Final assessment of the 6th Environment Action Programme shows progress in environment policy – but with shortfalls in implementation

Brussels, 31 August 2011 – Over the past decade the 6th Community Environment Action Programme (EAP) has helped environment legislation to tackle almost all areas of the environment. This is evident from the final assessment of the 6th EAP (2002-2012) adopted today. Major accomplishments in the field of environment during the past ten years have been the extension of the Natura 2000 network to cover almost 18% of the EU's land area, the introduction of a comprehensive chemicals policy, and policy action on climate change. However, there is progress to be made in implementing agreed EU objectives and rules and in improving biodiversity protection, soil and water quality. The decoupling of resource use from economic growth has not led to a decrease in overall resources use.

Commissioner Janez Potočnik comments: "We have obtained good results – but not always as good as we hoped for. Better implementation of EU rules by Member States is needed to close the gap between the 6th EAP's legislative ambitions and its end-results. Our goal now is to move from remediation to prevention of environmental degradation. The final assessment of the Programme will prompt the launch of a wide public debate to define the orientations for EU environment policy over the next years."

The final evaluation of the 6th Environment Action Programme shows that the large majority of actions set out in the Programme have been or are in the process of being completed. The seven thematic strategies identified in the 6th EAP – air, pesticides, waste prevention and recycling, natural resources, soil, marine environment and urban environment – have been developed in order to strengthen policy. Some strategies drove new policy while others focused to a greater degree on revising existing measures to improve coherence and to address specific gaps.

The Programme was successful in providing an overarching framework for environment policy. It served as a reference for Member States and local authorities in defending environment policy against competing policy demands, securing appropriate funding and providing predictability for business. The Programme also helped to build political will for the adoption of effective targets and timetables, and their subsequent implementation.

Evidence that the 6th EAP was a dominant factor behind the adoption of environmental legislation during the last decade could not be established. This is partly explained by the design of the Programme which contained an unwieldy number of actions, varying both in scope and effect. Stakeholders felt however that the Programme's approval in 2002 by Council and European Parliament in co-decision gave it more legitimacy and helped to create a wider sense of ownership for subsequent policy proposals. Inadequate implementation and enforcement of EU environment legislation by Member States was also clearly identified as a limiting factor.

Next Steps

Although the 6th EAP is in its final year, the Commission continues to pursue an ambitious environment policy, which is now an integral part of the Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. In this context it will soon present a Roadmap on Resource Efficiency with a vision towards a resource efficient Europe by 2050.

The assessment presented today lays the basis for further dialogue between the Commission, Council, Parliament, civil society and business. The target is to build consensus on the strategic orientations for environment policy, to ensure broad ownership and to secure mobilisation for action. Against this background, the Commission will consider how a new environment action programme could best provide added value in the rapidly evolving context for environment policy.


The 6th Community Environment Action Programme is a decision of the European Parliament and the Council adopted on 22 July 2002. It sets out a strategic framework for environmental policy-making in the European Union for the period 2002-2012. Environment Action Programmes have guided the development of EU environment policy since the early 1970s and the 6th EAP should therefore be seen as part of an overall 40 year process. The 6th EAP was the first Environment Action Programme to be adopted by the Council and the European Parliament under the co-decision procedure.

For full details of the content of the Communication and the process of the final assessment, see:

Contacts :

Joe Hennon (+32 2 295 35 93)

Monica Westeren (+32 2 299 18 30)

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