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European Commission - Press release

Environmental Implementation Review: new way to help Member States apply EU rules benefits citizens, administrations and economy

Brussels, 6 February 2017

Improving the application of EU rules on waste management, nature and biodiversity, air quality, water quality and management.

Today the Commission adopted the Environmental Implementation Review, a new tool to improve implementation of European environmental policy and commonly agreed rules. This is the beginning of a new process. The Commission will address with Member States the causes of implementation gaps and find solutions before problems become urgent.

Full implementation of EU environment legislation could save the EU economy €50 billion every year in health costs and direct costs to the environment. According to Eurobarometer, 3 out of 4 citizens consider European laws necessary to protect the environment in their country, and 4 out of 5 agree that European institutions should be able to check whether the laws are being correctly applied.

Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, said: "Patchy and uneven implementation of environmental rules helps no one. Improving how environmental laws are applied benefits citizens, public administrations and the economy.  This is where the Environmental Implementation Review (EIR) comes in. The European Commission is committed to helping Member States make sure that the quality of their citizens' air, water and waste management is of the highest standard. This Review provides the information, the tools and the timetable to do this".

Today's package includes: 28 country reports which map national strengths, opportunities and weaknesses; a Communication summarising the political conclusions of the country reports and examining common trends, in areas such as air quality, waste management and the circular economy, water quality and protecting nature and biodiversity; and recommendations for improvements to all Member States.

The Review shows that in the area of waste management, waste prevention remains an important challenge for all Member States, while six have not managed to limit the landfilling of biodegradable municipal waste. Full compliance with EU waste policy by 2020 could create additional 400,000 jobs.

Despite many local success stories in nature and biodiversity, the implementation of EU nature legislation needs to be stepped up, as confirmed by the EU Fitness Check of the Birds and Habitats Directives. Otherwise biodiversity loss will continue in the EU, compromising the capacity of ecosystems to provide for human needs in the future.

In 23 out of 28 Member States, air quality standards are still exceeded – in total in over more than 130 cities across Europe. Transport is a main source for air quality problems. Action on reducing environmental noise, the second-worst environmental cause of ill health, should also be increased.

In water quality and management, most Member States struggle to reach full compliance on collection and treatment of urban wastewater, and 13 face EU legal action. Nitrates concentrations and eutrophication levels remain a serious issue in nearly all Member States.

There are a number of root causes common to several Member States: ineffective coordination between administrative levels, insufficient capacity, and lack of knowledge and data.

The launch of the EIR package will be followed by discussions with each Member State, the launch of a peer-to-peer tool to allow Member States to help each other with expertise, and political debates in the Environment Council.


When commonly agreed rules are not properly implemented, the Commission can take legal action. In order to avoid this route, through the process of the Environmental Implementation Review, the Commission will work with Member States to enable them to better apply environmental policies and rules.

The Environmental Implementation Review (EIR) is part of the Commission's Better Regulation policy, which includes improving implementation of existing legislation and policies.

For More Information

Communication and Annex: "The EU Environmental Implementation Review: Common challenges and how to combine efforts to deliver better results"

Factsheets: 28 Country reports

Environmental Implementation Review website


Press contacts:

General public inquiries: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 67 89 10 11 or by email

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