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REFIT Evaluation of the SEA Directive

Council Directive 2001/42/EC of 27 June 2001 on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment (SEA Directive)


On the 22 November 2019 the Commission has adopted a Staff Working document (SWD (2019) 414 final) on the Evaluation of the SEA Directive 2001/42/EC. This evaluation has examined the extent to which the SEA Directive is fit for purpose by looking into what works and what can be improved, the extent to which the objectives of the Directive have been achieved and why some elements or features are successful or not.

The Staff Working document (EN version) is available here.

Summary in EN, FR and DE.

The evaluation has shown that the SEA Directive brings multiple benefits to the EU, contributing to wider goals on attaining the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and environmental protection, by integrating environmental concerns into the appropriate plans and programmes. To this end, it has clear EU added value. The Directive is coherent with other EU legislation prescribing environmental assessments. The benefits it provides do not cause disproportionate costs for the national administrations. The effectiveness of the Directive differs between sectors and the types of plans and programmes to which it is applied, but depends significantly on how it is transposed into national law and further implemented in each Member State. In addition, the broad scope of application that has been provided for in the case law of the CJEU needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis and against the specific legal order transposing the SEA Directive in the individual Member States.

The SEA Directive remains fit for purpose. Its effectiveness and efficiency can be affected by many practical factors, for example the timing of the SEA, its synchronisation with plans and programmes subject to SEA, and the use of scoping in order to limit the costs and frame the content of the environmental report. The central issue for the future is the scope and purpose of the SEA Directive. While some stakeholders have favoured a broader and more strategic application of the Directive, others have abstained from acknowledging its merits when applied to high level planning and would prefer to see it applied at a lower level. The abovementioned lessons learned and challenges have not affected the overall positive aspects consisting of having an EU-wide procedure that reflects the principles of sustainable development and provides for the systematic inclusion of environmental concerns in the plans and programmes that authorise developments and other activities likely to impact the environment.

In a nutshell

The Commission has undertaken the evaluation of the SEA Directive to ensure that it is "fit for purpose". Evaluations provide an evidence-based analysis whether EU actions are proportionate to their objectives and delivering as expected.

The evaluation was supported by an external study to help the Commission gather and assess relevant information and evidence.

Consultation strategy

The Roadmap

The evaluation SEA Roadmap is the "project plan". It sets out the subject of the evaluation and its purpose and provides key information on the scope, timing, data, stakeholder consultation and analysis planned to be used.

The feedback period on the roadmap was 11 July 2017 – 08 August 2017.

The key questions to addressed were set out in the roadmap:

  • Effectiveness (Have the objectives been met?)
  • Efficiency (Were the costs involved reasonable?)
  • Coherence (Does the policy complement other actions or are there contradictions?)
  • Relevance (is EU action still necessary?)
  • EU added value (Can or could similar changes have been achieved at nationa/regional level or did EU action provide clear added value?)

In this context the evaluation examined, among other things:

  • Transposition, implementation and integration successes and problems;
  • The situation of implementation in different Member States;
  • The extent to which the objectives have been reached/not reached and the reasons for this;
  • Costs and benefits of the Directive;
  • The administrative burden caused by the Directive;
  • The relevance of the Directive to address certain needs;
  • The coherence of the Directive with other legislative and non-legislative instruments;
  • The extent to which the issues addressed by the Directive require action at EU-level.

Open Public Consultation

A twelve-week-open public consultation, consulting on the five mandatory evaluation criteria (i.e. effectiveness, efficiency, coherence, relevance and EU added value), is an obligatory element of the REFIT evaluations. The open public consultation is accessible to all citizens and ensures that all interested parties have the opportunity to provide input.

The SEA REFIT open public consultation started on 23 April 2018 and closed on 23 July 2018 (midnight).

The objective of the public consultation in the form of a questionnaire was to gather information and the views of stakeholders and the wider public on how the SEA Directive has perceived and performed, including the value of having uniform EU legislation requiring the environmental assessment of certain plans and programmes, and the value of the opportunity the legislation provides for public and stakeholder input to the preparation and adoption of certain plans and programmes.

For the results of the Open public consultation, please, click here

Summary of the results of the Open public consultation can be found here.

Stakeholders Workshop - 6 December 2018, Brussels

The objective of the workshop was to present and discuss with Member States and other stakeholders the preliminary findings emerging from the assessment of evidence and information gathered.

Agenda of the workshop.



  • July 2017: Publication of the roadmap for the evaluation of the SEA Directive 2001/42/EC.
  • December 2017: Launch of the contract to help the Commission gather and assess relevant information and evidence.
  • April – July 2018: 12-week public internet consultation.
  • May – September 2018: evidence gathering and consultation of all Member States and key stakeholder groups.
  • December 2018: Workshop.
  • June 2019: Finalisation of the study contract supporting the evaluation.
  • December 2019: Publication of the Commission Staff Working Document on the results of the evaluation.