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Improving application of EU environmental laws - 13/03/2012

Leaves floating on water in a circle reminiscent of the stars on the EU flag © EU

Commission looks at ways to help countries realise the health and economic benefits of fully applying the EU’s environmental laws.

The failure by governments to fully apply the EU’s environmental laws drains our economy of an estimated €50 billion a year, due mainly to costs to our health and of cleaning up the environment.

Ensuring EU laws are applied consistently results in a cleaner, more sustainable environment – and is better for our health and the economy. For example, strictly applying EU laws on waste would create 400 000 jobs and save €72 billion (compared to a scenario in which the laws are not applied).

As a first step, the Commission has asked national governments and the European Parliament their views on how to better deliver the benefits of EU environment measures . Their responses will feed into specific proposals, expected later this year.

The proposals will address the need to collect more information about how EU laws work in practice and to speed up governments’ responses to environmental problems. They will likely include:

  • increasing the amount of environmental information available online – especially on how laws are being applied locally
  • improving inspections and monitoring to ensure laws are applied correctly
  • making it easier to submit complaints about environmental problems to national authorities
  • developing a common approach to environmental challenges in national courts – benefiting people, authorities and businesses
  • helping EU governments focus their resources on tackling environmental problems.

In a recent survey on European citizens' attitudes towards the environment , 3 out of 4 respondents said that the state of the environment had an impact on their quality of life.

World Water Forum

The Commission is presenting its views about water issues this week at the World Water Forum in Marseille, France. The Forum – held every 3 years – helps countries coordinate access to clean water and protect water resources.

Since 2004, EU support has helped 32 million people gain access to clean drinking water and provided 9.5 million with toilets.

EU environmental protection laws – summary

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