Following a proposal by the Commission adopted in 2000 (1), the European Parliament and Council adopted Directive 2002/49/EC relating to the assessment and management of environmental noise on 25 June 2002, also known as the "END".
The END aims to “define a common approach intended to avoid, prevent or reduce on a prioritised basis the harmful effects, including annoyance, due to the exposure to environmental noise”. For that purpose several actions are to be progressively implemented. It furthermore aims at providing a basis for developing EU measures to reduce noise emitted by major sources, in particular road and rail vehicles and infrastructure, aircraft, outdoor and industrial equipment and mobile machinery.
The underlying principles of the Directive are similar to those underpinning other overarching environment policies (such as air or waste), i.e.:
Monitoring the environmental problem; by requiring competent authorities in Member States to draw up "strategic noise maps" for major roads, railways, airports and agglomerations, using harmonised noise indicators Lden (day-evening-night equivalent level) and Lnight (night equivalent level). These maps will be used to assess the number of people annoyed and sleep-disturbed respectively throughout Europe
Informing and consulting the public about noise exposure, its effects, and the measures considered to address noise, in line with the principles of the Aarhus Convention
Addressing local noise issues by requiring competent authorities to draw up action plans to reduce noise where necessary and maintain environmental noise quality where it is good. The directive does not set any limit value, nor does it prescribe the measures to be used in the action plans, which remain at the discretion of the competent authorities.
Developing a long-term EU strategy, which includes objectives to reduce the number of people affected by noise in the longer term, and provides a framework for developing existing Community policy on noise reduction from source. With this respect, the Commission has made a declaration concerning the provisions laid down in article 1.2 with regard to the preparation of legislation relating to sources of noise.
It is important to note, however, that the present Directive does not set binding limit values, nor does it prescribe the measures to be included in the action plans thus leaving those issues at the discretion of the competent authorities.
In line with its principal aims, the Environmental Noise Directive applies to noise to which humans are exposed, particularly in built-up areas, in public parks or other quiet areas in an agglomeration, in quiet areas in open country, near schools, hospitals and other noise-sensitive buildings and areas (Article 2.1).
The Directive does not apply to noise that is caused by the exposed person himself, noise from domestic activities, noise created by neighbours, noise at work places or noise inside means of transport or due to military activities in military areas (Article 2.2).Some excluded areas, e.g. related to indoor noise, are covered by other policy instruments both at national and EU level such as those related to health and occupational safety.