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Key challenges

The latest wave of enlargement has demonstrated that in the process of aligning with the EU environmental acquis, a number of environmental sectors and issues can be problematic in terms of resources needed and modes of implementation. They are:

Horizontal legislation

This is a cross-sectoral part of the EU environmental acquis which needs to be fully implemented by the date of accession. It includes major pieces of legislation related inter alia to environmental impact and strategic environmental assessments, public participation in the decision-making process, access to information on environmental matters. 

Air Quality

  • Reducing emissions from stationary sources such as power plants and local district heating installations; adapting oil refineries to meet EU standards.
  • Reinforcing institutions for monitoring and data collection.
  • Addressing growing pollution traffic in the cities.


The management of municipal, industrial and hazardous wastes presents significant challenges. Transition periods are often granted to enlargement countries to allow them additional time after accession to set up their national waste management system in line with the EU standards. The Landfill Directive requires important investments and in most enlargement countries a high proportion of the landfill sites need costly upgrading. 


Major investment programmes were required for the management of wastewater and for improving the quality of the drinking water. Implementation of the Water Framework Directive requires heavy preparatory work and a strong institutional set-up. The implementation of the Nitrates Directive proved difficult for countries that needed to define vulnerable zones and establish action plans to be implemented by farmers.

Industrial Pollution Control and Risk Management

The Directive on Industrial Emissions concerns thousands of firms and installations in these countries, and large-scale investments are needed to be made compliant with the requirements of the Directive.

Nature Protection

The definition and designation of Natura 2000 sites could prove to be very difficult, coupled with poor implementation of existing laws on nature protection. The Natura 2000 network is a key component in the protection of the rich bio-diversity and ecosystems of the countries. It needs to be completed at the date of accession.  

EU progress reports on the approximation efforts of the candidate countries and potential candidates in all policy areas are issued every year by the European Commission. They include a section on chapter 27 - Environment.

More information on the EU environmental sectors and acquis can be found on:

The tasks of DG Environment include:

  • Explaining the EU environmental legislation to all stakeholders and informing them about new EU developments in this field;
  • Continuous monitoring of progress towards transposition and implementation of the environmental acquis among others during regular technical meetings;
  • Technical consultations on papers prepared by a country;
  • Provide expertise to other DGs in particular as concerns evaluation of project proposals in the field of environment and drafting of the yearly progress reports;
  • Organisation of peer-based assessments with Member States of a candidate country's administrative capacity.