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Procedure : 2012/2104(INI)
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PV 12/03/2013 - 10.10
CRE 12/03/2013 - 10.10
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Tuesday, 12 March 2013 - Strasbourg
Improving the delivery of benefits from EU environment measures

European Parliament resolution of 12 March 2013 on improving the delivery of benefits from EU environment measures: building confidence through better knowledge and responsiveness (2012/2104(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 11 of the TEU and Article 5 of the Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality,

–  having regard to Articles 191 and 192 of the TFEU,

–  having regard to the Commission communication to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee, and the Committee of the Regions on implementing European Community Environmental Law (COM(2008)0773),

–  having regard to the Commission Communication to the Council and the European Parliament entitled ‘2008 Environment Policy Review’ (COM(2009)0304) and the Annex thereto,

–  having regard to the Commission Communication to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee, and the Committee of the Regions entitled ‘Improving the delivery of benefits from EU environment measures: building confidence through better knowledge and responsiveness’ (COM(2012)0095),

–  having regard to the 29th annual report on monitoring the application of EU law (2011) (COM(2012)0714),

–  having regard to its resolution of 20 April 2012 on the review of the 6th Environment Action Programme and the setting of priorities for the 7th Environment Action Programme – A better environment for a better life(1),

–  having regard to the Council conclusions of 20 December 2010 on the subject of ‘Improving Environmental Policy Instruments’,

–  having regard to the Council Presidency conclusions of 19 April 2012 on the 7th Environment Action Programme,

–  having regard to the Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Lawmaking(2),

–  having regard to the outlook opinion of the Committee of the Regions entitled ‘The role of local and regional authorities in future environmental policy’(3),

–  having regard to the opinion of the Committee of the Regions entitled ‘Towards a 7th Environment Action Programme: better implementation of EU environment law’(4)

–  having regard to the proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on access to justice in environmental matters (COM(2003)0624) and the text adopted by Parliament at first reading(5),

–  having regard to Rule 48 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety and the opinion of the Committee on Petitions (A7-0028/2013),

General remarks

A.  whereas much of EU law takes the form of directives, setting out general rules and objectives, while leaving the choice of means, how to reach those objectives, to the Member States and to regional and local entities;

B.  whereas key responsibility for ensuring effective implementation and enforcement of EU legislation lies with national authorities, very often at regional and local levels;

C.  whereas inefficient implementation not only harms the environment and human health but also creates uncertainty for industry and places obstacles to the Single Market, as well as generates more bureaucracy and thus higher costs;

D.  whereas studies have concluded that full implementation of EU legislation in the waste sector alone would generate 400 000 jobs and save EUR 72 billion annually(6);

E.  whereas the unsatisfactory level of implementation of environmental law is reflected in the high number of infringements and complaints in this area;

F.  whereas the lack of precise information and knowledge on the state of implementation, and of quantitative data for several environmental sectors, is a hindrance to the proper implementation of the environmental acquis;

G.  whereas, according to the Commission, the annual cost of non-implementation of EU environmental legislation is currently EUR 50 billion in health costs and direct costs to the environment, not including the negative impacts on the state of the environment in the EU; whereas, from 2020 onwards, this annual cost will rise to EUR 90 billion(7);

H.  whereas problems arising from the implementation of EU environment law can be two-fold, with, on the one hand, late or insufficient implementation, and, on the other hand, ‘over-implementation’ (‘gold plating’), both aspects running counter to the original political ideas behind EU environmental law;

I.  whereas there are significant differences in implementation both between and within Member States which lead to a negative impact on the environment, thus making a more systematic and holistic approach necessary in order to bridge this ‘implementation gap’;

J.  whereas the environment was the area in which most infringements of Community law were reported in the EU in 2011 (299), representing 17 % of all infringements, and 114 new infringement proceedings were initiated in this area in 2011(8);

K.  whereas full compliance with EU environmental law is a Treaty obligation and a criterion for the use of EU funds in Member States; whereas the Member States should therefore implement environmental legislation in a timely, cost-efficient manner, in order to improve the state of the environment in the EU;

L.  whereas the 6th Environmental Action Plan was undermined by persistent implementation failures in mature policy sectors such as air pollution control, waste management, water and waste water treatment, and nature conservation;

Implementation as common task and opportunity

1.  Welcomes the Commission Communication entitled ‘Improving the delivery of benefits from EU environment measures: building confidence through better knowledge and responsiveness’ (COM(2012)0095);

2.  Urges the Member States to take all measures required to safeguard the environment and encourage sustainable development, while bearing in mind the need for a healthy and competitive economy; emphasises that local communities must have a strong say in deciding the best balance between the needs of people and the needs of their environment;

3.  Considers that, when EU environmental policies are formulated, regional and local authorities can strengthen the sense of cooperation and ensure the legislation is implemented more effectively;

4.  Is of the opinion that the administrative burden is not always a result of excessive implementation or lack of implementation; notes that administrative costs are unavoidable but that these should be kept as low as possible because of their negative impacts on citizens and industry;

5.  Notes that much of the unnecessary administrative costs linked to environmental legislation are due to inadequate or inefficient public and private administrative practices in various Member States and in their regional or local authorities;

6.  Emphasises that only the timely and correct implementation (transposition) of EU law by the Member States and regional and local authorities will ensure that the desired results of the EU policy in question are attained;

7.  Emphasises that assuring a level-playing field and a common market, as well as a harmonised approach, are at the centre of EU legislation;

8.  Is of the opinion that an efficient implementation can bring about benefits for industry, e.g. by reducing administrative burdens, providing investment security and thereby creating more jobs;

9.  Deplores that citizens become aware of EU legislation only after it enters into force; is of the opinion that an earlier means of information exchange between legislators and citizens is needed to bring about a higher level of acceptance and understanding of the objective of EU legislation;

10.  Clarifies that the Commission, as guardian of the Treaties, should act sooner in order to allow a better and more timely implementation; asks the Commission to examine what needs to be done to ensure the correct transposition, implementation and enforcement of environmental legislation;

11.  Notes that the current fragmented state of implementation in the Member States undermines the level-playing field for the industry and increases the uncertainty about the exact requirements, and, in so doing, discourages investments in those environmental areas which can generate jobs;

12.  Emphasises that the European institutions’ responsibility with regard to EU legislation does not end with the adoption of legislation by Parliament and Council, and that it is willing to assist the Member States in providing for more efficient implementation;

13.  Calls on the Commission, the Member States and the regions concerned to improve the flow of information, and increase transparency, through more active and frequent exchanges;

Solutions to assure a more efficient implementation

14.  Considers that full implementation and enforcement at all levels is critical, and may require, where appropriate, further strengthening; emphasises, therefore, the need for clear, consistent and non-duplicative environmental legislation; stresses the need for coordination, complementarity and the elimination of gaps in the coverage of the various items of legislation which comprise EU environment law;

15.  Is of the opinion that environmental legislation can be implemented more effectively through dissemination of best practices between the Member States, and between the regional and local authorities that are responsible for implementing EU legislation, as well as through greater cooperation with the European Institutions;

16.  Deplores the lack of data on the compliance and enforcement work undertaken at national, regional and local level, and therefore asks the Commission to improve this situation with the help of its networks and bodies, such as the European Environment Agency (EEA);

17.  Notes the importance of strengthening and monitoring the relevant indicators for the implementation of environmental legislation, and encourages the setting up of a user-friendly website where the most recent indicator measurements would be available and where informal comparisons among the Member States would be possible;

18.  Is of the opinion that the Commission itself should be at the centre of efforts to ensure a better implementation, and deplores that, currently, these efforts are increasingly referred to other bodies which often do not have the Commission’s competences, personnel or financial resources;

19.  Urges the Commission and the Member States to help improve the knowledge and capacity of the people involved in implementing environmental legislation, at national, regional and local levels, to ensure a better delivery of benefits from this legislation; is, furthermore, of the opinion that opening a dialogue with relevant stakeholders would improve implementation as well;

20.  Calls on the Commission to explore the possibility of setting up partnership implementation agreements between the Commission and individual Member States, or between Member States, in order to promote better implementation as well as to identify and resolve implementation problems;

21.  Calls on the Commission to examine whether greater participation by local authorities throughout the process of defining environmental policy would be useful in improving implementation of legislation across the board, including the possibility of setting up teams to transpose environmental law at regional and local level;

22.  Recommends the setting up of a systematic and easily accessible online information tool on implementation; calls on all actors, but especially on industry and citizens, to provide the implementing bodies with feedback on problems arising from implementation; values the availability of reliable, comparable and easily accessible information on the state of the environment, which it regards as key to tracking the state of implementation in an effective manner;

23.  Urges the Commission to re-consider demands for the introduction of a best-practise database, allowing best practice in implementation to be disseminated across Member States and across regional and local authorities; calls on the Commission to explore ways in which information and communication technology can be deployed to provide as much useful online information as possible on how EU environmental law should be implemented;

24.  Stresses the importance of tightening up monitoring of the application of environmental legislation; calls, therefore, for a strengthening of current capacities and for cohesion to be ensured among the various bodies responsible for monitoring in the Member States, based on EU guidelines;

25.  Stresses the need for EU legislation to aim to tackle the causes of environmental damage by establishing rules concerning legal responsibility for environmental damage and concerning corporate social responsibility; considers it essential, with that end in view, to carry out all the initiatives designed to encourage and propagate greater corporate social responsibility in relation to environmental matters, which imposes on businesses a requirement to be receptive to the sustainable development strategy;

26.  Recalls that there are many benefits to be gained from proper implementation of EU environmental legislation: three examples of such benefits are a level playing field for economic actors in the Single Market, the creation of a stimulus for innovation, and first-mover advantages for EU businesses;

27.  Underlines that a high level of environmental protection is one of the fundamental objectives of the European Union and would deliver direct benefits to citizens, such as better living conditions through improved air quality, less noise and less health problems;

28.  Emphasises that the EU has set itself an ambitious agenda to move towards a resilient, resource-efficient and low-carbon economy by 2050, and that commitments at all levels are needed to reach this goal; recalls that a common effort is vital to ensure that the EU economy grows in a way that respects resource constraints and planetary boundaries;

29.  Regrets that the procedure for adopting the proposal for a directive on public access to justice in environmental matters(9) has been halted at first reading; calls, therefore, on the co-legislators to reconsider their positions with a view to breaking the deadlock;

30.  Recommends, therefore, the pooling of knowledge between the respective judicial systems of the Member States that deal with infringements of, or failure to comply with, EU environmental legislation;

31.  Considers the monitoring of implementation activities of great importance, and therefore underlines the value of the work in that field of the EEA – in line with its statutory remit;

32.  Underlines the EEA’s important role in providing a solid knowledge base underpinning policy and implementation, and recognises the work done by the EEA in this field; urges the EEA to develop further its capacities to assist the Commission and the Member States in assuring the quality of monitoring and the comparability of the environmental information collected in different parts of the EU; further encourages the EEA to focus as well on capacity building and the dissemination of best practice in the Member States; expects the EEA’s new strategy to address the issue of implementation in more detail;

33.  Supports the Commission in its plan to ask the Member States, with support from the Commission, to develop structured implementation and information frameworks (SIIFs) for all key EU environment laws, to clarify the main provisions of a directive as well as to identify the types of information needed to demonstrate how EU law is being implemented;

34.  Notes the frequent concerns of petitioners in several areas of environmental policy, such as landfill and waste disposal, wildlife habitats and air and water quality; applauds their efforts to bring authority to account, and calls on the Member States to be open and cooperative with them;

35.  Urges the Commission to create, in co-operation with national authorities, with the involvement of the EEA as appropriate, a complaint unit where citizens can communicate problems related to the implementation of environmental legislation;

36.  Underlines the crucial importance of effective inspections and urges the Member States to step up their inspection capacities in line with best practices; calls for common minimum criteria for inspections in order to ensure fair implementation in all parts of the EU;

37.  Urges all actors to streamline inspection and surveillance activities with a view to using available resources with greater efficiency; stresses as well, in this regard, the value of a more systematic use of peer-review inspections, as pointed out by the Commission; emphasises the need to complement existing inspections with enhanced cooperation and peer-reviews among inspection authorities; encourages the European Union Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law (IMPEL) to take action in this direction; calls also on the Commission to promote knowledge and capacity-building by supporting networks of judges and prosecutors and, in close cooperation with the Committee of the Region to reduce the environmental and economic costs of non-compliance and ensure a level playing field;

38.  Urges the Commission, to set up an Environmental Law Inspection Unit, whose role will be to oversee and assist in the implementation of the environmental legislation; asks that this unit will use new technologies and cooperate with local agencies in order to keep down inspection costs; takes the view that this unit should operate on a cost basis and that the revenues should be directed to the EU budget and should be reserved for services related to better implementation;

39.  Encourages the Member States to draw up and publish correlation tables to describe the transposition of EU directives into national law in order to improve transparency and openness of the legislative process and make it easier both for the Commission and for national parliaments to oversee the proper implementation of EU legislation;

40.  Underlines that judges and prosecutors play a key role in the enforcement of environmental legislation and that it is therefore of vital importance that they receive proper training and information on these policies;

41.  Emphasises the important role of the citizens in the implementation process, and urges the Member States and the Commission to involve them in a structured way in this process; notes also, in this regard, the importance of citizens´ access to justice;

42.  Calls on the Commission and the Member States to explicitly define a specific timeframe in which court cases relating to the implementation of environmental law shall be resolved, in order to prevent the implementation of the environmental law and delays in court cases from being used as an excuse to avoid compliance and hinder investments; calls on the Commission to assess how many investments have been held back because of delays in legal proceedings relating to irregularities on the implementation of environmental legislation;

43.  Underscores the fundamental importance of actively informing citizens and NGOs about EU environmental policies at an early stage in order to involve them in drawing up and realizing such policies; urges therefore – also with a view to the findings of the high-level group of independent stakeholders on administrative burdens – that a greater effort in this respect be made so that public trust and confidence in EU environment law is enhanced, bearing in mind that a better environment for a better life cannot be created unilaterally from within the institutions without the support of society itself;

44.  With regard to projects with a possible cross-border environmental impact, calls on each Member State to comprehensively inform the affected public and authorities in other Member States concerned as soon as possible and to take the measures necessary to ensure that they are consulted in an appropriate manner;

45.  Urges the Member States to implement EU environmental legislation in the clearest, simplest and most user-friendly way while ensuring its efficiency;

46.  Calls on the Member States to advance further the full and proper implementation of EU environmental legislation and adopted policies and strategies in the framework of the 7th Environment Action Programme, and to ensure adequate capacity and finances for their full implementation, even in times of austerity, as the non-implementation or incomplete implementation of EU environmental legislation is not only unlawful, but also far more costly to society in the long run;

47.  Highlights the need to ensure that legislation is fit for purpose and reflects the latest scientific research; calls, therefore, on the EU and the Member States to regularly assess if EU environmental law fulfils these requirements and, where necessary, to adjust it accordingly;

48.  Acknowledges that first reading agreements might lead to the inadequate implementation of legislation if concrete content is left to be specified in the implementing provisions; asks, therefore, all actors to ensure that decision-making is based on an unambiguous statement of political will; emphasises the need for clear, consistent environmental legislation, drawn up on the basis of public policy evaluations and feedback;

49.  Is of the opinion that the Commission should continue to use directives in EU legislation to allow the Members States as well as regional and local authorities to implement European legislation according to their respective situation; asks the Commission, however, to increase further the support already outlined in its proposal through further studies or through the actions referred to in the impact assessment;

50.  Applauds the introduction of environmental impact assessments, and calls on the Member States to ensure that the relevant legislation is implemented more effectively, taking better account of the needs of small and medium-sized businesses and residents, and of flora and fauna; expresses concern at the slowness with which Member States often carry out such assessments and calls, in the context of the future revision of the directive, for guarantees to be introduced concerning their impartiality and objectivity;

o   o

51.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission, the Committee of the Regions, and the national parliaments.

(1) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2012)0147.
(2) OJ C 321, 31.12.2003, p. 1
(3) OJ C 15, 18.1.2011, p. 4.
(4) OJ C 17, 19.1.2013, p. 30.
(5) OJ C 103 E, 29.4.2004, p. 626.
(6) BIOS report, COM(2012)0095.
(7) European Commission, Directorate - General Environment, ‘The costs of not implementing the environmental acquis’ Final report, ENV.G.1/FRA/2006/0073, September 2011
(8) 29th annual report on monitoring the application of EU law (2001) (COM(2012)0714).
(9) COM(2003)0624.

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