2. EU Environmental Policy
2.2 Philosophies and Principles
2.3 Policy Output
2.4 Implementation and Enforcement
3. Emergence of Environmental Policy in Lithuania
3.1 Challenges and Development
3.2 Legal and Institutional framework
3.3 Policy Principles
4. Approximation to EU Environmental Policy
4.1 Accession Process
4.2 Tasks and Course of Negotiations
4.3 Main challenges
4.3.2 Financing the Adjustments
5. Concept of Europeanization
5.1 Defining Europeanization
5.2 Europeanization and Environmental Policy
5.3 Europeanization and Lithuania
This essay deals with the environmental policy of the European Union and the adaptation of Lithuania to its requirements. It seeks to answer three questions:
(1) What are the features of European Union environmental policy and how has it developed? Secondly, in comparison with the former: (2) what characterizes the Lithuanian environmental policy and from which background has it emerged? And finally, (3) what were and are the challenges for Lithuania to adopt the EU environmental legislation and which impact does the adaptation have on Lithuania’s environmental policy and its institutions?
Thus, following these questions, the focus of the subsequent chapter is on EU environmental policy, whereas the third chapter describes the emergence of a Lithuanian environmental policy and the fourth the accession requirements and the challenges these pose for the environmental sector in Lithuania. Chapter five then employs the concept of Europeanization to explain the impact of EU environmental policy on Lithuanian domestic policy-making and its institutions.
Before starting with the actual work, it is useful to have a look on the boundaries of environmental policy, i.e. which subjects are part of environmental policy. It is rather difficult to define the scope of environmental policy in the sense that nearly every human activity has some kind of environmental impact. The institutional settings in the European Union and in Lithuania do not help much, as e.g. the Directorate General Environment is also responsible for consumer protection. Just as little do the Treaties of the European Communities and Union define what environmental policy stands for.
For the purpose of this work, environmental policy shall be defined as actions taken or not taken by the competent authorities that are aimed at managing human activities in order to prevent harmful effects on nature and natural resources, also with a view on the possible subsequent negative consequences for human life.However, this rather broad perspective is for practical reasons curtailed, especially in the chapters dealing with the accession process, to the legislation contained in the environmental chapter of membership negotiations. In this terms, it is embracing water and air pollution, the management of waste and chemicals, biotechnology, radiation and noise protection, nature conservation and international environmental conventions to which the Community is a party. In addition the environmental acquis is dealing with horizontal issues like environmental impact assessments, access to information on environment and combating climate change.
2. Environmental Policy in the European Union
This chapter is aimed at giving an overview over the state of environmental policy in the European Union. Consequently, first of all the main steps for the emergence of this relatively new policy area on the Community level are outlined. This is followed by a section about the underlying, partly contrasting, philosophies and principles of environmental policy-making in the European Union. Section 2.3 then summarizes the areas in which the Community is active and the implementation-gap is topic of section 2.4.
The view on the history and the step-by-step emergence of a now heavily integrated policy helps to understand the somewhat patchy nature of EU environmental policy.
At the time when European integration started, neither environmental protection was on the list of priorities, nor played other qualitative issues such as the improvement of working conditions an important role. Consequently, the Treaty of Rome did not mention environmental protection. Before 1972 the pieces of environmental policy agreed upon the Community level were unconnected elements and focussed on the removal of barriers to trade.
During the end of the 1960s and beginning of the 1970s Western publics began to criticize the focus on material growth. Such criticism got a major impulse from the work of the Club of Rome, which concluded that unlimited growth lead to environmental crisis and an exhaustion of resources. Another impetus was provided by the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm.
So as many national governments and international organizations began turning their attention to environmental issues, these became also more important for the European Economic Community. As environmental legislation emerged, especially in member states with big markets like Germany, the different levels of regulation could have acted as trade barriers and posed therefore a threat to the creation of the common market. Hence, the Heads of States and Governments decided 1973 to move the Community into that policy arena – even as there was no explicit treaty provision. The Court of Justice later on approved the use of treaty provisions referring to the establishment of the common market.
Subsequently, environmental action by the Community began with the creation of a small Environment and Consumer Protection Service within the Commission, the creation of a Committee on the Environment in the European Parliament and the formulation of Environmental Action Programmes. Already during the first ten years of environmental legislation, the Community adopted more than 110 pieces of legislation.
The Third Environmental Action Programme of 1983 called for the integration of environmental policy into the other sectoral policies of the Community and the environmental legislation adopted by the Community began to be more stringent than many member states would have adopted unilaterally. This was due to a tension created by the activism of Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, which successfully managed to transfer their higher standards of environmental regulation to the European level. This push for more Community legislation was not least supported by industrialists in these states being anxious to loose competitiveness.
With the accession of Greece in 1981, and of Spain and Portugal in 1986 the balance of economic and political interests has changed towards economic development as a priority.The Single European Act on the other hand, which entered into force in 1987 and provided mainly for the adaptations required for the achievement of the internal market, gave environmental protection for the first time a legal basis in the treaties. It confirmed that environmental management was one of the Community policies and defined the goals as preserving, protecting and improving the quality of the environment, helping protect human health, and ensuring rational use of natural resources. These very general provisions allowed the Commission to prepare legislation in areas where they had not yet been active, such as the protection of natural habitats and freedom of access to environmental information. Moreover, the legislation linked to the single market mostly came under the provisions of qualified-majority voting, which increased the pace of adoption.
The Treaty on European Union finally listed environmental protection as a policy goal of the EU in the important opening articles and called “a policy in the sphere of the environment”as one of the 20 Community’s activities. Most of the non-market areas of environmental policy were also brought under qualified-majority voting and the European Parliament attained more rights.
Still, the 1990s were rather a period of consolidation than of new initiatives. The discussions about subsidiarity in general limited the output of new legislation by the Commission. Member states were given more responsibility of implementing regarding the Fifth Environmental Action Programme, which placed a new stress on sustainable development. The shift towards more responsibilities for the member states to some extent increased the problem of monitoring and enforcement. Non-compliance, partial compliance and incorrect application of environmental regulation persisted to be a serious drawback and therefore the Santer Commission concentrated efforts on implementation.
An important move for the development of environmental policy materialized with the EU accession of Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995 because these countries shifted the balance again towards a more aggressive approach regarding environmental regulation. The 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam then enormously simplified decision-making in environmental policy. It also strengthened the principle that environmental matters should be integrated into other sectors. Subsequently, Community institutions are now obliged to take account of environmental considerations in all their other policies. This obligation has been taken into account particularly in the fields of employment, energy, agriculture, development cooperation, single market, industry, fisheries, economic policy and transport.
Another development, which can be observed in the late 1990s, is a shift away from command and control approaches towards more market-based solutions and towards more flexibility by which means member states enforce EU policy. In recent years the Commission was more concerned with the drafting of strategies, non-legislative White and Green papers and tries to bring forward environmental matters through non-binding recommendations and voluntary agreements. Germany is now, not least due to bigger economic problems, not any more the first mover that pushes forward new legislation. The Sixth Environmental Action Programme for the period of 2001 till 2010 continues to focus on the implementation of existing legislation, voluntary agreements, partnership with industry and civil society, and a better integration of environmental concerns into other Community legislation rather than advocating new legislation.
2.2 Philosophies and Principles
Environmental policy-making in the European Union has always to deal with contrasting regulation philosophies advocated by different member states. In the 1990s debate has sharpened around the question whether environmental legislation should regulate the sources of potential damage or focus on the environmental quality to be achieved. While Germany was in favour of the former, Great Britain was advocating the later. In the field of air quality the Germans set the agenda in the 1980s, but in the 1990s the British began to emerge as the leader regarding air quality on the basis of a quite different type of intervention. The result is a mixture of intervention philosophies with both typically British and typically German elements. With the Fifth Environmental Action Programme new instruments were introduced, being mainly voluntary measures such as eco-audits and eco-labels. Moreover, the turning away from a command and control approach brought with it a move towards market-based instruments with the system of tradable carbondioxid emission rights being the most prominent.
The key parameters of EU activities in the field of environmental policy have been set by a series of principles outlined in the treaties. Some are legally binding requirements but most are no more than general goals. Nonetheless, they play a role in the formulation of policy. The most important principles include the following:
The central concept of EU environmental policy, which has been developed since the Single European Act, now postulated in the opening articles of the treaties, is sustainable development. But as the term is not defined in the treaties and is in general a contested model meaning different things for different interest-groups it is not more than a general request.
Another early developed principle states that the polluter should pay implying that the costs of preventing or making good on environmental damage must be met by the entity responsible for the damaging. In practice this principle has several shortcomings as the cause of a damage has often multiple sources and cannot be identified accurately. Moreover, producer often pass the costs to the consumers by increasing the price of the products. Besides that, EU funds aiming at improving the state of the environment are contrary to this principle as they are financed by the taxpayer.
Another principle of environmental policy-making is the aim to reach a high level of protection. This means that the Community should as a starting point for legislation rather orient on the rules in effect in the most stringent member state. However, it is not possible to legally enforce this, as it is only a general, not clearly defined notion with several loopholes.
The prevention principle encourages the Community to initiate action in such a way as to protect the environment by preventing problems emerging, assuming that prevention is better than cure.
The integration principle states that environmental protection requirements shall be a component of the Community’s other policies. But it is not clear whether this means that environmental policy has a measure of priority over all the over policy areas and how conflicts between different goals should be solved. While the so called Cardiff process has lead to a greater awareness of this principle, mechanisms to assure the early recognition of environmental aspects in the legislation process are still insufficient.
The international principle gives the EU a role in international treaties and organizations. Particularly the Commission has been active to represent the EU in international negotiations and to encourage compliance of the member states.
The precautionary principle implies that the EU should take action even if there is a suspicion that an activity may cause environmental harm, rather than wait until the scientific evidence is clear.
The derogative principle allows making exceptions from decisions made by qualified majority voting in order to ease the burden for poorer member states. It applies also to the transitional periods negotiated for the new member states and contributes to the emergence of a multi-speed Europe.
The principle of subsidiarity is a concept calling for action been taken on the European level only if the objective of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the member states, thus limiting action by the Community to areas where measures on the European level are more effective and necessary. This limited legislative action in all policy fields in which the EU does not have exclusive competences.
2.3 Policy Output
The environmental policy of the EU has produced over the years an impressive body of legislation. This section shall give a short overview over the areas covered by Community regulation.
Control of chemicals in the environment has been the major priority of EU environmental legislation with about 110 laws focussing on such issues as the packaging and distribution of chemicals. A big part relates to measures ensuring the free circulation of goods among the member states.
Another priority has also been the control of air pollution, being the subject of 80 laws. The legislation in this field is mainly aimed at cutting emissions from industrial activities and road traffic. The set of laws deals for instance with the reducing of ozone concentration and ultra-fine particles, national ceilings for other atmospheric pollutants and pollution from large combustion plants.
A number of directives concerning the quality of drinking water, bathing water and water for fish farms have been adopted. Early legislation was based more on the principle of emission limits concerning for example urban waste water and measures to combat pollution from nitrates. However, the policy has changed since 1995 with the Community now pursuing a more comprehensive strategy to water management. This has led to the framework directive for a policy on water which seeks to promote sustainable use of water resources.
Community legislation has been concerned with the conservation of wildlife and natural habitats. More recently, the Community has published action plans to promote biodiversity in the areas of natural resources, agriculture and fisheries. Issues relating to wildlife and biodiversity have been in the focus of 52 laws.
Community policy on waste management involves the complementary strategies of diminishing waste at source by improving product design, encouraging the recycling and re-use of waste and reducing pollution caused by waste incineration. Legislation has been implemented on packaging waste, batteries and mineral oils. The various options for treating waste, such as disposal in landfills and incineration, have also been the subject of Community measures.
The EU has also been active in such areas as management of forests, noise pollution, genetically-modified organisms, the impact of agriculture on the environment and the promotion of energy conservation and alternative sources of energy.
As already mentioned, the central concept of nowadays environmental policy is sustainable development, affecting not only the environmental but also social and economic policies. This concept is thus linked to the integration principle. An EU Sustainable Development Strategy adopted in 2001 was followed in 2002 by a Commission Communication focussing on the external dimension of sustainable development. The strategy has three components. First, it defines in a broad way what is sustainable. The basic message is that, the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainability must go hand–in-hand and reciprocally support one another. The second part focuses on ways how to bring policy-making in line with the requirements of sustainable development. Furthermore, the document addresses trends that are not sustainable and the international challenges concerning globalisation fighting poverty, social development and sustainable management of natural and environmental resources.
The objectives of the EU’s strategy are ambitious and fast progress cannot be expected as the road to the achievement involves basically all policy areas and a lot of rethinking is needed in order to reconcile contradictory aims. The 2005 review of the strategy states “While some progress has been made in implementing the Strategy […] it is clear that much remains to be done.”
 For a similar definition see: McCormick (1999), p. 198
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