Horizontal environmental EC legislation: A short policy guide

Without access to information and participation in decision-making, democratic decision-making is unthinkable. Furthermore, lack of information prevents citizens from making important choices based on the given information. Lack of information also hinders participation in decision-making, as only informed citizens can take action in an appropriate way. Without establishing a right to access to information, citizens do not have the possibility to claim access to that information.

ENP partner countries are going through a phase of economic restructuring and development. This includes a number of new development projects usually associated with negative environmental impacts, such as displacement of fl ora and fauna, degradation of water bodies and destruction of land.

Similar to the project level, negative environmental impacts are also likely to arise at the planning and programme level, such as policies to increase highway surface or construction of new housing developments.

How the policy addresses these problems

  • The Access to Information Directive establishes the right to access information and sets out clear conditions on how environmental information must be provided.
  • The Reporting Directive outlines regular reporting requirements.
  • The Environmental Impacts Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment (SEA)

Directives address development issues by:

  • determining which projects, plans and programmes need to be assessed (i.e. those with potentially significant environmental impacts),
  • setting the framework to uniformly address potential environmental impacts in order to minimise pressures on the environment,
  • in the case of SEA, requiring the analysis of alternatives in order to chose the best design with respect to environmental concerns,
  • requiring public participation (also by way of the Directive for providing for public participation in EIA).

Benefits to be expected include

Information and participation is key for democratic policy-making. Furthermore, access to environmental information not only helps the public to get a picture of the environmental situation and may help to avoid environmentally induced diseases but also is a precondition for participation. Participation in turn allows for the public to infl uence decision-making in the respective cases. Reporting on implementation of environmental legislation increases transparency and accountability.

With regard to EIA and SEA, convergence may lead to the following benefits:

  • better frameworks for assessing the environmental impacts of projects, plans, and programmes,
  • improvement in project design through the wider consideration of impacts and alternatives that minimise impacts,
  • introducing the concept of strategic environmental impact assessment increases the efficiency of tiered decision-making (including strengthening EIA),
  • increased transparency through public participation and consultation requirements (also by way of the Directive for providing for public participation in EIA),
  • improved co-ordination among government agencies as well as stakeholders.

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