Didier Bourguignon, Magdalena Sapala and Alina Dobreva (European Parliamentary Research Service)
The importance of environmental protection has been a hotly debated topic for several years, thanks to which also the EU policy in this area is relatively large and complex. However, accord-ing to a recent survey conducted by the European Parliament, about two-thirds of EU citizens think that Brussels should be engaged more in environmental protection and half of the re-spondents considered the Union’s current actions on this issue inadequate. The greatest support for the intensification of the EU‘s action in the field of environmental policies comes from Swe-den, where it reaches up to 83 percent, and the lowest comes from Estonia, where only 45 percent of respondents think that the EU should be engaged more. What is the current frame-work of the EU‘s environmental legislation and is there perhaps even some room for change?
EU environmental policies are primarily focused on the high level of protection and they are based on four basic pillars: prevention, precaution, remedy of the damage directly at its source and the ‘polluter pays’ principle (PPP). The Union may intervene in almost all areas of the envi-ronmental policy, but it is limited by the principle of subsidiarity and, in the case of some topics, unanimity in the Council is required.
The EU’s seventh Environment Action Program covers the period between 2014 and 2020 and identifies the main priorities of the current environmental policy. It is focused on the issues of a more efficient use of resources, conservation of biodiversity, protection of human health and reduction of carbon. This framework is complemented by the Europe 2020 strategy, which promotes smart and sustainable growth.
The Member States are responsible for compliance, implementation and financing of the measures of environmental protection, for which the EU provides financial and technical support. Environmental protection is an area in which the European Commission must make most efforts to solve the problems with the implementation of environmental policies in the Member States. According to experts, an unsuccessful implementation of these policies from the side of Mem-ber States is caused by poor administrative enforcement capacity, inadequate information or the lack of skills at a local level. To tackle these problems, the Commission should provide a greater support to the Member States to comply with the prescribed measures but also to en-force the given legislation through appropriate legal proceedings.