Implementation of Environmental Policy

Although policymaking has improved over the years since the environmental movement began in Europe, implementation does not have as successful a record overall. The EU institutions have shown limited ability to ensure successful implementation in member states, and long-term EU policy has suffered from the lack of legal basis. Poor implementation has also been blamed on disorganization within the EU institutions, lack of financial and technical resources, and EU institutions' failure to recognize the difficulty in implementing the policy they create.

On a national level, there have been issues with the varying ability of or motivation for member states to implement EU policy. States with poorer environmental records, such as Spain and Greece, have had more infringement cases started against them by the ECJ than the other states, while countries such as Germany and the Netherlands are lazy about adopting legislation because their domestic environmental departments are already successful. Denmark, meanwhile, has a good record of implementation despite past resistance to EU policy, and it now has an active role in creating new EU policy (McCormick, 1999, p. 137). The most common system of implementation in member states is a cooperative, conciliatory approach by enforcement officers who seek to achieve compliance through negotiation, persuasion, and public education or awareness campaigns. Other techniques are legally based and involve referring cases for prosecution, issuing fines or closing commercial premises. This approach is not common, however, and it is used primarily when there is a high risk of a pollution accident, where pollution has already occurred, or where advice is not achieving the desired outcome (Grant et al., 2000).

Although the implementation of directives is left to member states, the EU is responsible for the implementation of the regulations it imposes on the states. At the EU level, a number of programs have been introduced for the implementation of EC measures through funding, including the LIFE program, the eco-label project, and the Community Eco-Management and Audit Scheme, in addition to measures that define the criteria for environmental inspections and the assessment of the effects of plans and programs on the environment.

The LIFE program was born in 1992, and its goal is to develop, implement, and update EC environmental policy and environmental legislation, particularly in relation to the integration of the environment into other policy areas. LIFE finances the EC member states as well as countries not in the union that border the Mediterranean or Baltic Seas or that, alternatively, are CEEC and have applied to become union members. The most recent, third phase of funding had a lifespan of 2000-2004 and a budget of €640 million. It followed the first phase, from 1992 to 1995, with a budget of €400 million and followed the second phase, from 1996 to 1999, with a €450 million budget. LIFE uses the budget to finance proects that meet the following three criteria:

• Projects are of community interest and contribute to life objectives.

• Projects are carried out by technically and financially sound participants.

• Projects are feasible in terms of technical proposals, timetable, budget, and value of money.

The persistence of programs such as LIFE helps the countries with less successful environmental programs and funding, to reach EC standards.

The eco-label project promotes products that have less environmental impact than other products in the same product group, providing consumers with accurate information and guidance on a number of products. Product in the system are judged by the European Union Eco-Labeling Board, according to a number of environmental concerns and criteria (European Parliament and European Council, Eco-label, 2000).

The Community Eco-Management and Audit Scheme promotes the continuous improvement of environmental performance within EC organizations, and it also provides the public and interested parties with the information it acquires. This regulation replaces one made in 1993, which allowed voluntary participation of industrial companies in an audit system. The member states are required to establish a system for accrediting independent environmental verifiers and for supervising their activities. The regulation requires member states to encourage the participation of small and medium-sized undertakings in the EMAS and requires them also to promote EMAS so that its presence maximizes public awareness (European Parliament and European Council, Community Eco Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS), 2000).

The two other implementation programs that exist within the EC help to (1) integrate the environment into the preparation and adoption of plans and programs that may have significant environmental consequences (European Parliament and European Council, Assessment of the Effects of Plans and Programmes on the Environment, 2001) and (2) ensure greater compliance and a more uniform application and implementation of EC environmental policy by creating the minimum criteria for the execution of environmental inspections (European Parliament and Council, Environmental Inspections: Minimum Criteria).

In considering the availability of funds for implementation, the EU's lack of ability to introduce taxes must be noted. The unanimity rule for such matters makes it extremely difficult for an EU-wide tax to be introduced. A uniform level of tax would be difficult because the tax would be based on the level of damage being done in a specific area, and this could vary between countries. In addition, countries such as Sweden and Denmark that have domestic environmental taxes have reported a number of difficulties with small and vulnerable plants in isolated regions, who demonstrate that their alternative options are limited (Clinch, 1999, pp. 39-40).

As in other areas, policymakers are working to move away from the tendency to create too much ambitious environmental legislation that has little hope of implementation.

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