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Frequently Asked Questions


What areas of environmental legislation are dealt with by the Commission?

The area is very broad in terms of control both of environmental quality standards for air and water as well as control on processes and products that may be responsible for giving rise to pollution emission. A full range of areas is covered from chemicals and GMO’s to nature and wildlife protection, air quality and climate change.

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How is the environmental agenda at EU level likely to develop?

The priority issues in the 6th Environmental Action Program are to limit climate change, protect nature and biodiversity, ensure the sustainable management of resources and waste as well as health and environment issues. The achievement of our objectives in these areas will require a combination of measures – implementation of existing legislation, greater emphasis on market instruments, empowerment of citizens and integration of environmental objectives into other policy areas.

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How do consumer and environmental organisations input into the legislative process?

Before the adoption of a proposal by the Commission, all kinds of bodies are consulted and then involved in the decision-making process. These range from Member States, specialised interest groups, NGOs, technical experts, industry, etc.

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What are the principal drivers of the environmental agenda (NGOs, business, government, consumers)?

This question depends very much on specific circumstances, e.g. on the environmental issue in question. For example, in the GMO debate, ‘Greenpeace’ has been one of the main drivers on the anti-GMO front, whereas GMO-industry argues very much in favour of GMOs. In some cases it can be Member States who push a particular issue. Otherwise, it can be argued that it is more the state of the environment itself rather than anything else, which drives the environmental agenda, the Environmental Agency state of the environment report having been very much the basis for defining priorities for the 6th Environmental Action Programme.

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What is sustainable development?

'Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'

The concept of sustainable development was first used prominently in the 1987 Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission) and at the subsequent UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

Sustainable Development (SD) is a sound approach to policy making as it looks at the long term and at interlinkages between different developments and policy actions. Further information on the EU sustainable development strategy.

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What about subsidiarity?

DG Environment takes the principle of subsidiarity into account in its proposals, initiating legislation only in areas where the European Union is better placed than individual Member States to take effective action. Subsidiarity is enshrined in the Treaty on European Union.

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Where can I find information on funding opportunities from DG Environment?

Our website contains comprehensive information on funding opportunities. The main financial instrument is LIFE, but there is also an annual call for proposals and specific actions for NGOs and civil protection. 

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How can I find out about job opportunities with DG Environment?

Recruitment to the European Commission is normally via one of the widely advertised ‘competitions’ although temporary posts are sometimes available. Full information on career opportunities in the European Commission is available on the EUROPA website. 

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Where can I find environmental statistics?

Try the websites of Eurostat or the European Environment Agency.