Enhancing enforcement obligations for EU environmental law

EU environmental law varies in how explicit it is in its obligations on Member States to inspect activities or otherwise assess compliance of that law. In some cases such obligations are explicit with prescribed inspection frequencies, etc., while in other cases the obligation is implicit (i.e. part of a general obligation to ensure compliance). Across EU environmental law, levels of compliance vary across Member States, meaning that the benefits of such law are not fully realized. A key factor contributing to this is the varied approaches Member States have to inspection and enforcement, influenced by budgetary constraints, cultural differences, and so on.

A new study for DG ENV led by IEEP has examined the evidence for inspection and enforcement problems in Member States concluding that significant problems exist, leading to potential harm to health and the environment and failure to realize the economic benefits of EU law. The study examines whether a new horizontal instrument to enhance inspection and enforcement activity across EU environmental policy would be beneficial. It concludes that, if correctly formulated, such an instrument could appropriately cover all aspects of environmental law and provide a sound basis for enhancing enforcement capacity in the Member States.

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