Environmental impact assessment: Commission sends wake-up call to Member States

The Commission published on 23 June its 5-year report on how Member States implement the directive on environmental impact assessment.

The environmental impact assessment (EIA) directive (85/337/EEC) was introduced in 1985 and was amended in 1997. Under this legislation, the environmental consequences of big public and private projects have to be assessed before authorisation. For some projects (Annex I), such as the construction of motorways, airfields or nuclear power stations, this EIA is obligatory; for others, such as urban development or tourism (Annex II), Member States decide themselves if an EIA is needed.

In its 5-year report, the Commission criticised the Member States for failing to implement this environmental law. It encountered several problems such as unsystematic "screening" of Annex II projects, wide variation in the criteria used to determine if an EIA is necessary and "salami slicing" (the project is broken up in smaller ones to avoid having to do an environmental impact evaluation).

There are many ongoing complaints and infringements against countries for not having undertaken such an environment assessment for certain projects. The country with the biggest number of infringement procedures open is Spain; only Denmark has no open cases.

In order to deal with this problematic implementation, the Commission announced that in the future some further amendements to the EIA directive could be needed.


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