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Implementation of Community environmental legislation

Communication on Improving the delivery of benefits from EU environment measures: building confidence through better knowledge and responsiveness

In the past 30 years the EU has adopted a substantial and diverse range of environmental measures aimed at improving the quality of the environment for European citizens and providing them with a high quality of life. Our environment can only be well protected if Member States properly implement the legislation they have signed up to.

Implementation of Community environmental legislation is to be ensured in the first place by Member States.

In addition to any implementation and enforcement action taken at national level, the European Commission fulfils the role of "Guardian of the Treaty": according to Article 211 first indent of the EC Treaty, the Commission is to ensure that the provisions of the Treaty and the measures taken by the institutions pursuant thereto are applied. In performing that function, the Commission may open infringement procedures.

Close cooperation between national authorities and the European Commission contribute to a better implementation. Regional and local authorities are also key players and co-operation with the Committee of the Regions is facilitated by a Technical Platform for Cooperation on the Environment.

The European Union Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law (IMPEL) is a network of the environmental authorities of EU Member States, acceding and candidate countries, and Norway. It provides a framework for policy makers, environmental inspectors and enforcement officers to exchange ideas, and encourages the development of enforcement structures and best practices.

Next to administrative authorities, judges in the Member States have to play a very important role since rights and obligations deriving from Community law are enforced on daily basis by national courts and tribunals. The European Union Forum of Judges for the Environment contributes to promote the enforcement of national, European and international environmental law by contributing to a better knowledge by judges of environmental law.

To support the implementation and enforcement of Community environmental legislation the Community has adopted the directive on environmental liability, the recommendation providing for minimum criteria for environmental inspections and the directive on the protection of the environment through criminal law.

Whatever the means used, the overall objective of the Commission is to ensure that EU environmental legislation is implemented in full, correctly and on time. This is important because legislation which is not or incorrectly implemented will not achieve the desired effect on the environment.