Why is the Environmental Implementation Review important?
The Environmental Implementation Review (EIR) helps Member States put in place environmental policies that protect human health, preserve nature, and keep the air, water and soil clean.
EIR is a reporting tool that complements EU environmental legislation. The Commission promotes implementation of EU environmental rules through technical support, guidance, EU funding and, where appropriate, initiating infringement proceedings that can result in substantial fines. The Commission works with Member States to enable them to better apply environmental policies and rules, through the process of the EIR, which is a preventive tool. In this way, solutions can be found to ensure full compliance with EU environmental law.
The EIR is also useful for citizens and stakeholders. It raises public awareness about the importance of implementing environmental rules and main challenges. It also provides useful information to help those concerned take action to preserve human health and protect the environment throughout the EU by ensuring that competent authorities correctly apply the existing environmental rules.
How serious is the gap in implementation of environmental laws?
Overall, there is a good level of implementation of environmental and climate legislation throughout the EU, but to curb the negative impacts of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, much more efforts to comply with commonly agreed rules are needed in each Member State.
On circular economy and waste management, there are big differences in circularity rates and resource productivity between Member States. Preventing and properly managing waste also remains a significant challenge. Respectively, 17 of 27 Member States need to adopt measures to increase the circular material use rate, and 20 are yet to adopt the national and/or regional waste management plans and waste prevention programmes. Excessive or non-compliant landfilling is still a big issue in the EU – 12 Member States are currently subject to infringement proceedings.
Biodiversity in the EU continues to decline. The great majority of Member States (25) need to complete the Natura 2000 site designation process, and defining the conservation objectives and measures to achieve the favourable conservation status of protected habitats and species. These are key instruments to protect our environment.
Air pollution continues to harm the health of Europeans, as limit values for dangerous substances (particulate matters and nitrogen dioxide) are still exceeded. Consequently, the Commission is currently handling infringement proceedings against 18 Member States. More efforts are needed in all 27 Member States to reverse or maintain downward emissions trends of air pollutants, and reduce adverse air pollution impacts on health and economy.
Progress towards achieving good status for water bodies is generally slow. Implementing rules for drinking water is still a cause for concern in a few countries. Wastewaters are not properly treated before being released into the environment in 19 Member States, which are also subject to enforcement action by the Commission.
Climate adaptation efforts in each country and at EU level need to be urgently intensified.
Infringements of EU environmental law account for the largest number of cases dealt with by the European Commission – about 20% of the total. We need to turn the tide and urgently address this gap. This is possible by addressing the specific recommendations in the EIR country reports and the root causes of poor implementation highlighted in the EIR Communication.
Properly and fully implementing EU environmental policy and laws protect human health, preserve a healthy environment and avoid related unnecessary economic costs (EUR 55 billion every year, according to a 2019 study). Bridging the gap between what is decided at EU level and what is actually implemented on the ground also preserves a level playing field for the businesses and creates opportunities for social and technological innovations and economic development.
How does the Commission support Member States to implement EU environmental laws?
The Commission supports Member States through technical and financial support. This includes:
TAIEX-EIR PEER 2 PEER tool: facilitates learning between environmental authorities and exchanges between Member States on implementation challenges. It provides tailored support to national authorities implementing environmental policy and legislation. Through the tool, expert missions, study visits and workshops will receive financial support from the Commission.
Funding for the environment: a guide that presents an overview of the available EU funding and financing opportunities. Financing environmental projects is essential for their success, and EU funds contribute to closing the investment gaps in Member States. The guide provides information on programme such as LIFE, the EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action.
Technical Support Instrument: provides technical support to design and implement reforms in Member States. The support is demand-driven and is provided in a wide range of policy areas, including to help implement EU environmental law.
EIR expert group: comprising of Member States and stakeholders, the group meets twice a year to discuss progress on the EIR and on greening the European Semester.
In addition, the EIR country dialogues facilitate the communication between governments and administrations and other stakeholders, including civil society, based on the findings of the EIR. It is for national authorities to launch the dialogues. The Commission strongly encourages these exchanges to find solutions to the challenges identified in the EIR reports. The Commission has published guidelines on organising EIR dialogues.