Brussels, 21 June 2012
Environment: Commission asks Hungary to comply with EU legislation on environmental impact assessments
The European Commission is urging Hungary to bring its national legislation on assessing the effects of projects on the environment in line with EU rules. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is therefore sending a reasoned opinion. In the absence of a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission may refer the case to the EU Court of Justice.
A fundamental objective of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive (EIA Directive) is to ensure that projects likely, by virtue of their nature, size or location, to have significant effects on the environment are subject to an impact assessment. In Hungary, the EIA Directive was incorrectly transposed into national law, in particular in relation to the project screening process which determines whether certain projects listed in Annex II to the Directive require an EIA. Hungarian law established exclusion thresholds and criteria which did not take account of all the relevant selection criteria set out in Annex III to the Directive. This resulted in a restrictive application of the Directive.
This issue was addressed in a letter of formal notice sent to Hungary in May 2009, followed by an additional letter in January 2010. In the meantime Hungary has adopted a number of legislative amendments to ensure compliance with the Directive's requirements. The Commission welcomes these amendments, but it appears that shortcomings still remain in relation to the screening of a number of projects.
The aim of the EIA Directive is to ensure that projects which are likely to have a significant effect on the environment are adequately assessed before they are approved. Hence, before any decision is taken to allow such a project to proceed, its possible impacts on the environment are identified and assessed. Developers can then adjust projects to minimise negative impacts before they actually occur, or the competent authorities can incorporate mitigation measures into the project approval.
For current statistics on infringements in general, see:
Joe Hennon (+32 2 295 35 93)
Monica Westeren (+32 2 299 18 30)