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Strategic Environmental Assessment - SEA

Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment to the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (SEA Protocol, Kyiv 2003)

The Protocol was adopted by an Extraordinary meeting of the Parties to the Espoo Convention, held on 21 May 2003 during the Ministerial "Environment for Europe" Conference in Kyiv). The Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment augments the Espoo Convention by ensuring that individual Parties integrate environmental assessment into their plans and programmes at the earliest stages, and thus help in laying down the groundwork for sustainable development.
The Protocol entered into force on 11 July 2010.

The EU ratified the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment on 21 November 2008. The SEA Directive (Directive 2001/42/EC) transposes the Protocol in the EU legislation.

Watch a short introduction to the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment.

Directive 2001/42/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment (SEA Directive)

Legal Context

SEA Directive 2001/42/EC

The SEA Directive applies to a wide range of public plans and programmes (e.g. on land use, transport, energy, waste, agriculture, etc). The SEA Directive does not refer to policies. The SEA Directive is in force since 2001 and should have been transposed by July 2004.

Plans and programmes in the sense of the SEA Directive must be prepared or adopted by an authority (at national, regional or local level) and be required by legislative, regulatory or administrative provisions.

The SEA Directive does not have a list of plans/programmes similar to the EIA.

An SEA is mandatory for plans/programmes which are:

  • are prepared for agriculture, forestry, fisheries, energy, industry, transport, waste/ water management, telecommunications, tourism, town & country planning or land use and which set the framework for future development consent of projects listed in the EIA Directive.


  • have been determined to require an assessment under the Habitats Directive.


Broadly speaking, for the plans/programmes not included above, the Member States have to carry out a screening procedure to determine whether the plans/programmes are likely to have significant environmental effects. If there are significant effects, an SEA is needed. The screening procedure is based on criteria set out in Annex II of the Directive.

The SEA procedure can be summarized as follows: an environmental report is prepared in which the likely significant effects on the environment and the reasonable alternatives of the proposed plan or programme are identified. The public and the environmental authorities are informed and consulted on the draft plan or programme and the environmental report prepared. As regards plans and programmes which are likely to have significant effects on the environment in another Member State, the Member State in whose territory the plan or programme is being prepared must consult the other Member State(s). On this issue the SEA Directive follows the general approach taken by the SEA Protocol to the UN ECE Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context.

The environmental report and the results of the consultations are taken into account before adoption. Once the plan or programme is adopted, the environmental authorities and the public are informed and relevant information is made available to them. In order to identify unforeseen adverse effects at an early stage, significant environmental effects of the plan or programme are to be monitored.

The SEA and EIA procedures are very similar, but there are some differences:

  • the SEA requires the environmental authorities to be consulted at the screening stage;
  • scoping (i.e. the stage of the SEA process that determines the content and extent of the matters to be covered in the SEA report to be submitted to a competent authority) is obligatory under the SEA;

Commission reports under Article 12(3) of the SEA Directive

Background information on the adoption of the SEA Directive