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Inspections are an important instrument to ensure the implementation and enforcement of EU environment legislation.
In 2001, recognising that there was a wide disparity between inspection systems in the Member States, the European Parliament and the Council adopted Recommendation 2001/331/EC providing for minimum criteria for environmental inspections in the Member States (RMCEI).
The RMCEI contains non-binding criteria for the planning, carrying out, following up and reporting on environmental inspections. Its objective is to strengthen compliance with EU environment law and to contribute to its more consistent implementation and enforcement in all Member States.
The content of the RMCEI has strongly influenced provisions on environmental inspections in sectoral pieces of environment and climate change legislation:
The European Union Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environment Law (IMPEL) played an important role in the preparation of the RMCEI and through its activities has also played an important role in its implementation.
The 7th Environmental Action Programme recognizes that the improvement of the implementation and enforcement of EU environment law at all administrative levels and the guarantee of level playing field requires extending binding criteria for effective Member State inspections to the wider body of the environment acquis and complementing these with support for networks of professionals, reinforcement of peer reviews and best practice sharing. It followed a public consultation which had, inter alia, sought views on revising the current framework on environmental inspections. It also followed Commission Communication of March 2012 on Improving the Delivery of Benefits from EU Environment Measures: Building Confidence through Better Knowledge and Responsiveness, COM(2012)95 which had also referred to the subject.
The Council Conclusions of 11 June 2012 also called for improving inspections regimes on the basis of experience with existing provisions and avoiding unnecessary administrative burdens.
In its Opinion to the Commission proposal for the 7th EAP (2013/C 17/07), the Committee of the Regions (CoR) stressed that an EU-wide framework for national inspections can ensure a level playing field and consistency in legal action across the EU and improve trans-frontier cooperation. It also pointed out the value of a well-defined inspection related role of the Commission.
These developments occurred against the background of an earlier review of the RMCEI, details of which can be found through this link.
Results of the online consultation on the revision of the EU legal framework on environmental inspections:
Study on information collection and impact assessment of possible requirements for environmental inspections in the area of EU legislation on water, nature protection and trade in certain environmentally sensitive goods
Study on possible options for strengthening the EU level role in environmental inspections and strengthening the Commission's capacity to undertake effective investigations of alleged breaches in EU environment law