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Environmental Compliance Assurance

What's new?

  • 17/12/2018: Launch of a public consultation on draft documentation on complaint-handling and citizen engagement. Anyone wishing to provide comments is invited to send them to ideally by 25 January 2019 using the following format and indicating in the email that the subject is “complaint-handling”. Preparation of this documentation is one of the actions in the Commission action plan described below. Comments will be considered in the preparation of the final workshop if we receive them by the above-mentioned deadline. More information is available here at “CIRCABC”.
  • 7/12/2018: the second meeting of the Environmental Compliance and Governance Forum took place in Brussels. Meeting documents and presentations are available at CIRCABC.
  • 30/11/2018: Second Open Stakeholder meeting on Environmental Compliance and Governance — invitation and agenda

What is environmental compliance assurance?

The European Union has put in place rules to provide society with environmental benefits that include clean water, breathable air and a healthy nature. A recent Eurobarometer survey shows that an overwhelming majority of Europeans want the EU to make sure that these rules are applied across Europe. 

Environmental compliance assurance describes all the ways in which public authorities promote, monitor and enforce compliance with such rules. It is part of environmental governance. 

  • Promote means helping businesses and others to comply;
  • Monitor means using inspections and other checks to collect information about levels of compliance and provide solid evidence for enforcement;
  • Enforce means stopping those who disregard the rules, sanctioning them and obliging them to rectify the damage.

Promotion covers awareness-raising, guidance and advice. Monitoring covers routine environmental inspections, police investigations and environmental audits by public audit bodies. It also includes examination of complaints from the public. Enforcement covers audit recommendations, official warnings, cease-and-desist orders, administrative fines, criminal prosecutions and demands to take remedial action. Interventions may vary according to what works best.

Commission Action Plan on environmental compliance and governance

On 18 January 2018, the European Commission adopted a 9-point Action Plan to increase compliance with and improve governance on EU environmental rules on activities. The actions will be implemented over 2018-2019 with the help of EU countries and European networks of environmental agencies, inspectors, auditors, police, prosecutors and judges. The actions aim to:

  • help inspectors and law officers to combine forces, including through joint inspections and enforcement actions, 
  • improve professional training, 
  • provide guidance on combating environmental crime, complaint handling at national level, inspecting extracting waste facilities, compliance assurance in rural areas, and using satellite images and other spatial data to detect crimes like illegal waste disposal,
  • improve Commission information to Member States and practitioners.

Delivery of the actions involves a newly established high-level expert group, the Environmental Compliance and Governance Forum. This will be a platform for exchanging views on how to increase compliance and improve governance generally. 

Key documents:

European practitioner networks

European environmental inspectors, police officers, prosecutors, judges, auditors and heads of environmental protection agencies have formed separate networks to help them with their work. The networks enable knowledge, expertise and best practices to be shared. 

Main European networks of environmental compliance assurance practitioners



The European Union Network for Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law (IMPEL)

Environmental authorities and environmental inspectorates at central or regional level from all EU countries as well as candidate, potential candidate and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries.


National police officers specialised in combating environmental crime.

The European Network of Prosecutors for the Environment (ENPE) 

Bodies responsible for criminal prosecutions and, to some extent, applying administrative sanctions.

The EU Forum of Judges for the Environment (EUFJE) 

Judges from across the EU responsible for criminal, administrative and/or civil cases.

The European Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions, specialised working group on environmental auditing (EUROSAI)

Supreme audit bodies. The working group functions within the more general network.

The European Network of the Heads of Environment Protection Agencies (NEPA), in particular its Better Regulation Interest Group (BRIG)

European environmental protection agencies. BRIG is a grouping within the general network that takes a close interest in environmental compliance.

Development of an assessment framework on environmental governance 

In February 2017, the European Commission published for the first time an Environmental Implementation Review (EIR). The EIR aims to improve implementation in the field of EU environmental policy, by trying to identify the causes of implementation gaps, and to find solutions to them. The first round of assessment reports for the 28 Member States revealed a lack of sound methodologies for assessing the various aspects of environmental governance. 

One of the actions in the 9-point Action Plan will address this. A project has already been launched with the main objective to develop a methodology for assessing the environmental governance performance of public administrations in each of the EU Member States. The assessment will cover areas such as transparency, accountability, rule of law, public participation and effective administration. It will link to global environment and sustainability governance initiatives, particularly the Sustainable Development Goals. The first workshop will take place on 27 February 2018.

Read and see more

Documents related to the 9-point Action Plan, including background studies, reports, and summaries of meetings and events. Updates will be provided as the Action Plan is implemented. 

For broad insights, see: 


The European Commission is keen to receive feedback on this subject matter. You can send any comments, questions or information of relevance (such as reports, projects, etc.) to us: