European Commission reviews environmental implementation in member states but avoids naming and shaming
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European Commission reviews environmental implementation in member states but avoids naming and shaming

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

The tool was launched in May 2016 and fits into a two-year cycle of analysis and dialogue with the Member States. This first review includes 28 country reports and a Communication summarising the political conclusions of the reports. An annex to the Communication includes “suggested actions” on better environmental implementation in targeted countries.

At today’s (6 February) press conference, Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, said that full implementation of EU environment legislation could save the EU economy €50 billion every year in health costs and direct costs to the environment and add hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

According to Eurobarometer, more than 75 % of European citizens consider EU laws necessary to protect the environment in their country, and nearly 80 % agree that European institutions should be able to check whether the laws are being correctly applied.

“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,” says Vella.

In for example the area of waste management, the review shows that waste prevention remains an important challenge for all Member States, while six have not managed to limit the landfilling of biodegradable municipal waste. Only six Member States have already reached the municipal waste recycling target of 50%.

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.

The Communication mentions the number of countries lagging behind in implementing environmental legislations without naming them – only successful country examples are mentioned. The recommendations in the annex, however, are targeted to certain countries.

The only ranking that appears in the review is the recycling rate of municipal waste in 2014 (EU average rate: 44 %). Asked by The Brussels Times if the Commission had considered aggregating the indicators from all areas in an overall score by country, Commissioner Vella replied:

“We didn’t want to name and shame countries. We could easily have done it without a review if we wanted but it wasn’t the purpose of this exercise. The idea was to identify any help needed by a country. You don’t get the whole picture by naming and shaming. Some countries are good in certain areas and less good in other areas or in certain regions.”

He continued that there are carrots and sticks to be used at different times but this time the Commission is using carrots. “The implementation review doesn’t substitute infringement procedures if required.”

M. Apelblat

The Brussels Times