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Strategic Environmental Assessment - SEA

Legal Context

SEA Directive 2001/42/EC

Report from the Commission on the application and effectiveness of the Directive on Strategic Environmental Assessment (Directive 2001/42/EC), COM/2009/469.

The SEA Directive applies to a wide range of public plans and programmes (e.g. on land use, transport, energy, waste, agriculture, etc). The SEA Directive does not refer to policies. The SEA Directive is in force since 2001 and should have been transposed by July 2004.

Plans and programmes in the sense of the SEA Directive must be prepared or adopted by an authority (at national, regional or local level) and be required by legislative, regulatory or administrative provisions.

The SEA Directive does not have a list of plans/programmes similar to the EIA.

An SEA is mandatory for plans/programmes which are:

  • are prepared for agriculture, forestry, fisheries, energy, industry, transport, waste/ water management, telecommunications, tourism, town & country planning or land use and which set the framework for future development consent of projects listed in the EIA Directive.


  • have been determined to require an assessment under the Habitats Directive.


Broadly speaking, for the plans/programmes not included above, the Member States have to carry out a screening procedure to determine whether the plans/programmes are likely to have significant environmental effects. If there are significant effects, an SEA is needed. The screening procedure is based on criteria set out in Annex II of the Directive.

The SEA procedure can be summarized as follows: an environmental report is prepared in which the likely significant effects on the environment and the reasonable alternatives of the proposed plan or programme are identified. The public and the environmental authorities are informed and consulted on the draft plan or programme and the environmental report prepared. As regards plans and programmes which are likely to have significant effects on the environment in another Member State, the Member State in whose territory the plan or programme is being prepared must consult the other Member State(s). On this issue the SEA Directive follows the general approach taken by the SEA Protocol to the UN ECE Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context.

The environmental report and the results of the consultations are taken into account before adoption. Once the plan or programme is adopted, the environmental authorities and the public are informed and relevant information is made available to them. In order to identify unforeseen adverse effects at an early stage, significant environmental effects of the plan or programme are to be monitored.

The SEA and EIA procedures are very similar, but there are some differences:

  • the SEA requires the environmental authorities to be consulted at the screening stage;
  • scoping (i.e. the stage of the SEA process that determines the content and extent of the matters to be covered in the SEA report to be submitted to a competent authority) is obligatory under the SEA;
  • the SEA requires an assessment of reasonable alternatives (under the EIA the developer chooses the alternatives to be studied);
  • under the SEA Member States must monitor the significant environmental effects of the implementation of plans/programmes in order to identify unforeseen adverse effects and undertake appropriate remedial action.
  • the SEA obliges Member States to ensure that environmental reports are of a sufficient quality.

Background information on the adoption of the SEA Directive