The European Commission is urging Belgium and Portugal to adopt measures to implement EU legislation on assessing the effects of plans and programmes on the environment. The existing legislation on strategic environmental assessments in Belgium and Portugal contains a number of shortcomings. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is therefore sending both countries a reasoned opinion. The Member States have two months to comply. In the absence of a satisfactory response, the Commission may refer the cases to the European Court of Justice.
The Commission is asking Belgium and Portugal to improve their implementation of Directive 2001/42/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment. The current legislation in both countries contains a number of shortcomings. In October 2009, the Commission notified both countries that their national legislation was not entirely in line with the Directive. An additional letter of formal notice was sent to Belgium in June 2010.
In Belgium, for instance, the legislation in the regions does not ensure that neighbouring Member States will be consulted when plans and programmes could affect them. Some regions have announced new legislation in this area, but it has not yet been adopted. A reasoned opinion is therefore being sent. Problems have also been identified in Portugal's legislation. Authorities there are not obliged to divulge reasons for not carrying out an environmental assessment of a plan or programme. The legislation does not foresee the mandatory provision of information to authorities in other Member States, or a statement summarising how environmental considerations have been integrated into the plan or programme.
Belgium and Portugal have two months to comply with EU legislation.
Under the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive, plans and programmes made by authorities at national, regional and local levels, and which are likely to have significant effects on the environment, are required to be subject to an environmental impact assessment. This enables environmental considerations to be integrated into the preparation and adoption of these plans and programmes, while also contributing to sustainable development.
The environmental assessment takes place during the preparation of such plans and before their adoption. It includes an environmental report detailing the likely significant environmental effects and reasonable alternatives, and consultations with the public, the authorities with environmental responsibilities, and with other Member States if significant cross-border effects are a possibility. It is therefore a significant information tool for EU