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Environment and Cohesion Policy

Cohesion policy

Already in 1997 the Treaty of Amsterdam introduced the requirement of integrating environmental protection requirements into other Union policies and activities. Following the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon (1 December 2009), this provision is included in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Article 11 of the TFEU provides that "Environmental protection requirements must be integrated into the definition and implementation of the Union's policies and activities, in particular with a view to promoting sustainable development."

The importance of environmental integration is reaffirmed in the 7th Environment Action Programme to 2020. It emphasizes that environmental integration in all relevant policy areas is essential in order to reduce pressures on the environment resulting from the policies and activities of other sectors and to meet environmental and climate-related targets.

Cohesion Policy as the EU's main investment policy has a particular responsibility to mainstream environment into its programmes and projects. For the 2014-20 programming period, sustainable development is reconfirmed as one of the key principles of the Cohesion Policy. The cross-cutting nature of sustainable development is reflected in Article 8 of the Common Provisions Regulation (CPR), which is a specific expression of the integration principle. The CPR also includes additional provisions supporting environmental integration.

Environmental integration within the Cohesion Policy requires both a ‘horizontal’ and ‘vertical’ approach:

  • ‘Horizontal’ integration (also known as a ‘cross-cutting theme’ or 'environmental mainstreaming') aims for environmental sustainability across different thematic objectives (e.g. increasing economic competitiveness by reducing business costs through more efficient use of resources).
  • ‘Vertical’ integration has environmental concerns as the prime objective of one part of the programme, even though there may be socio-economic effects. For example, investing in basic environmental infrastructure should not only help to meet the requirements of the EU environmental legislation but it may also act as a necessary foundation for attracting other investments.

The Cohesion Policy 2014 -2020 will make available some € 350 billion to the EU Member States for investments. Taking into account national contributions and private investment, the total funds mobilised could rise to more than € 450 billion for the next seven years. With all this spending comes a tremendous opportunity to achieve environmental sustainability alongside economic growth and job creation. Integrating the environment in the Cohesion Policy programmes can improve a region’s competitive advantage, save resources and money, create a positive public image, manage risks and result in compliance with policies. This is an opportunity that cannot be missed on the way to a more competitive low-carbon economy that makes efficient, sustainable use of resources.

A recent study on the integration of environmental concerns in Cohesion Policy Funds describes the application of this horizontal principle within the last three programming periods (2000-2006, 2007-2013, 2014-2020).

European Network of Environmental Authorities-Managing Authorities

The European Network of Environmental Authorities for the Cohesion Policy (ENEA) was set up in September 2004. Its main goal is to contribute to the integration of environment and sustainable development within the Cohesion Policy programmes and projects. In 2009, the Network's membership was extended also to managing authorities and its name was changed to the European Network of Environmental Authorities-Managing Authorities (ENEA-MA). The re-structured Network brings together environmental and managing authorities and other European organisations active in the field of environment and Cohesion Policy. The Network meets twice a year for its plenary sessions. Depending on the needs, its work is also organised within working groups.

More information on the ENEA-MA meetings and other relevant information can be found here