Aarhus Convention: The UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (Aarhus Convention)was adopted on 25th June 1998 in the Danish city of Aarhus at the Fourth Ministerial Conference in the 'Environment for Europe' process. The Aarhus Convention grants the public rights and imposes on Parties and public authorities obligations regarding access to information and public participation and access to justice.
Appeal: An appeal is a petition for a review of a case that has been decided by a court of law. The petition is made to an appropriate superior court empowered to overturn the lower court's decision on the ground that it was based on an erroneous application of law.
Biodiversity: Biodiversity is the biological variety of life on earth. The number of species of plants, animals, and microorganisms, the enormous diversity of genes in these species, the different ecosystems on the planet, such as deserts, rainforests and coral reefs are all part of a biologically diverse Earth. Biodiversity boosts ecosystems productivity where each species has a very important role to play.
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention of Biological Diversity: The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty governing the movements of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from modern biotechnology from one country to another. It was adopted on 29 January 2000 as a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity and entered into force on 11 September 2003.
Committee of Permanent Representatives of the Member States (Coreper): The Committee made of permanent representatives from the Member States to the European Union responsible for preparing the work of the Council of the European Union (Article 240 TFEU) and is chaired by the Member State which holds the Council Presidency. Coreper occupies a pivotal position in the Community decision-making system, in which it is both a forum for dialogue (among the Permanent Representatives and between them and their respective national capitals) and a means of political control (guidance and supervision of the work of the expert groups).
Compliance: indicators through which the adherence to international laws by states are assessed and measured
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD): The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity convention entered into force on 29 December 1993 and has three main objectives. First of all, the conservation of biological diversity, secondly, the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity, and thirdly, the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.
Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention): is a United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) convention signed in Espoo, Finland, in 1991 that entered into force in 1997. The Convention sets out the obligations of Parties to carry out an environmental impact assessment of certain activities at an early stage of planning. It also lays down the general obligation of States to notify and consult each other on all major projects under consideration that are likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact across boundaries.
Council of the European Union (“Council of Ministers” or “Council”): European Union's main decision-making body. Its meetings are attended by Member State ministers, and it is thus the institution which represents the Member States. The Council's headquarters are in Brussels, but some of its meetings are held in Luxembourg. Sessions of the Council are convened by the Presidency, which sets the agenda. The Council meets in ten different configurations bringing together the competent Member State ministers: General Affairs; Foreign Affairs; Economic and Financial Affairs; Justice and Internal Affairs; Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs; Competitiveness; Transport, Telecommunications and Energy; Agriculture and Fisheries; Environment; Education, Youth and Culture. Decisions are prepared by the Committee of Permanent Representatives of the Member States (Coreper), assisted by working groups of national government officials. The Council, together with the European Parliament, acts in a legislative and budgetary capacity. It is also the lead institution for decision-making on the common foreign and security policy (CFSP), and on the coordination of economic policies (intergovernmental approach), as well as being the holder of executive power, which it generally delegates to the Commission.
Court of Justice: The Court of Justice is one of three courts that form the Court of Justice of the European Union, the judicial institution of the European Union (other courts are: the General Court and the Civil Service Tribunal). Its primary task is to ensure the uniform interpretation and application of European Union law (in cooperation with the courts and tribunals of the Member States). The Court of Justice interprets European Union law at the request of the national courts and tribunals, ensures that the Member States comply with obligations under the Treaties and reviews the legality of the acts of the institutions of the European Union. By its jurisprudence the Court of Justice established general principles of EU law such as supremacy of EU law, direct effect, the liability of a Member State to individuals for damage caused to them by a breach of Community law by that State etc. The Court was set up in 1952 under the ECSC Treaty and is based in Luxembourg. It consists of one judge per Member State (28 from July 2013 on) and eight advocates-general (in August 2013).
Direct effect: The principle of direct effect ensures the application and effectiveness of European law in Member states by enabling individuals to immediately invoke certain European provision before a national or European Union court. The so-called vertical direct effect is of consequence in relations between the state and individuals, whereas the horizontal direct effect is of consequence in relations between individuals.
Directive: A Directive is a legal instrument adopted by the European Union according to a specific procedure. It is binding, as to the result to be achieved, on each Member State to which it is addressed, but leaves to the national authorities the choice of form and methods (Article 288 TFEU). A Directive´s function, harmonisation of law within the EU, can be achieved for example by Directive 2008/95/EC.
Directorate General/Environmental Directorate General: The Directorate-General for the Environment is one of the more than 40 Directorates-General and services that make up the European Commission. Commonly referred to as DG Environment, the objective of the Directorate-General is to protect, preserve and improve the environment for present and future generations. To achieve this it proposes policies that ensure a high level of environmental protection in the European Union and that preserve the quality of life of EU citizens. The DG makes sure that Member States correctly apply EU environmental law. In doing so it investigates complaints made by citizens and non-governmental organisations and can take legal action if it is deems that EU law has been infringed. In certain cases DG Environment represents the European Union in environmental matters at international meetings such as the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA): process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the biophysical, social, and other relevant effects of development proposals prior to major decisions being taken and commitments made (Definition IAIA).
Environmental monitoring: systematic sampling of air, water, soil, and biota in order to observe and study the environment, as well as to derive knowledge from this process. Environmental monitoring is used in the preparation of environmental impact assessments, as well as in many circumstances in which human activities carry a risk of harmful effects on the natural environment.
Espoo Convention: Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention) sets out the obligations of Parties to assess the environmental impact of certain activities at an early stage of planning. It also lays down the general obligation of States to notify and consult each other on all major projects under consideration that are likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact across boundaries. The Convention was adopted in 1991 and entered into force on 10 September 1997.
European Convention on Human Rights: The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) (formally the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) is an international treaty to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Europe. It was adopted in 1950 by the then newly formed Council of Europe and entered into force in 1953. All Council of Europe member states are party to the Convention and new members are expected to ratify the convention at the earliest opportunity It’s ratification is a prerequisite for joining the Organisation.
European Court of Human Rights: The European Court of Human Rights is a supra-national or international court established by the European Convention on Human Rights which oversees the implementation of the European Convention on Human Rights in the 47 Memeber States of Council of Europe. It hears applications alleging that a contracting state has breached one or more of the human rights provisions concerning civil and political rights set out in the Convention and its protocols. An application can be lodged by an individual, a group of individuals or one or more of the other contracting states, and, besides judgments, the Court can also issue advisory opinions.
European Commission: Established by the Treaty of Rome in 1957, the European Commission is the executive body of the European Union responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union's treaties and day-to-day running of the EU and has comprised 28 Commissioners since the accession of Croatia on 1 July 2013. Its main function is to propose and implement Community policies adopted by the Council and the Parliament. It acts in the general interest of the Union with complete independence from national governments. As guardian of the Treaties, the Commission oversees the application of Union law under the control of the Court of Justice of the European Union. It executes the budget and manages the programmes. It exercises coordinating, executive and management functions, as laid down in the Treaties. With the exception of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, and other cases provided for in the Treaties, it ensures the Union’s external representation. It initiates the Union’s annual and multiannual programming with a view to achieving inter-institutional agreements.
European Ecolabel Regulation: The EU Ecolabel helps you identify products and services that have a reduced environmental impact throughout their life cycle, from the extraction of raw material through to production, use an disposal. Recognised throughout Europe, EU Ecolabel is a voluntary label promoting environmental excellence which can be trusted. The EU Ecolable scheme is a commitment to environmental sustainability. The criteria have been developed and agreed upon by scientists, NGOs and stakeholders to create a credible and reliable way to make environmentally responsible choices.
European Environment Action Programme: Environment Action Programmes provide a general policy framework for the European Union’s environmental policy in which the most important medium and long-term goals of European environmental policy are defined and set out in the form of a basic strategy, if applicable, including concrete action measures. The European Commission began the practice of periodically issuing Community Environmental Action Programmes in the early 1970s. The Treaty of Maastricht which was adopted in 1992 created a contractual basis for the adoption of Environment Action Programmes. When the Treaty of Lisbon was adopted, this contractual basis was set forth in Article 192 (3) TFEU. Since then, Environment Action Programmes have been adopted by the European Parliament and the Council at the proposal of the Commission within the framework of the ordinary legislative procedure and have hence been issued as formal legal acts.
European Parliament: is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union. Together with the Council of the European Union (the Council) and the European Commission, it exercises the legislative function of the EU and but does not have the ability to formally propose legislation. This institution also controls budgetary actions for the European Union. Members of the European Parliament are elected every five years.
European Parliament Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI): As in the national Parliaments, various committees have been set up within the European Parliament to prepare the proceedings of the full House, e.g. the Parliamentary Committee on Environment. The core legislative work of Parliament is done in these committees. The main function of the standing committees is to debate proposals for new legislation put forward by the European Commission and to draw up own-initiative reports. For any proposal for legislation or other initiative, a rapporteur is nominated by agreement between the political groups that make up Parliament. His or her report is discussed, amended and voted on within the parliamentary committee and then placed before the plenary assembly, which meets once a month in Strasbourg, and which debates and votes on the basis of this report.
European Pollutant Emission Register (EPER Decision): In July 2000, the European Commission adopted a Decision on the implementation of a European Pollutant Emission Register (EPER) according to Article 15 of Council Directive 96/91/EC concerning Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC). The general purpose of the IPPC Directive is to reduce pollution by industry and to control emissions from larger facilities. National governments of all EC Member States are required to maintain inventories of emission data from specified industrial sources and to report emissions from individual facilities to the European Commission. The reported data will be made accessible in a public register (EPER), which is intended to provide environmental information on major industrial activities.
General Court: The General Court is one of three courts that form the Court of Justice of the European Union, the judicial institution of the European Union (other courts are: the Court of Justice and the Civil Service Tribunal). It mainly reviews the legality of the acts of the institutions of the European Union. It’s primer task is to hear direct actions brought by natural or legal persons against acts of the institutions, bodies, offices or agencies of the European Union, actions brought by the Member States against the Council relating to acts adopted in the field of State aid and ‘dumping' and finally, actions relating to Community trade marks.
It was set up in 1989 as the Court of First Instance. It consists of at least one judge per Member State (28 from July 2013 on).
Infringement procedure: Under the Article 258 TFEU the European Commission is responsible for ensuring that EU law is correctly applied. Consequently, where a Member State fails to comply with EU law, the Commission has powers of its own (action for non-compliance) to try to bring the infringement to an end and, where necessary, may refer the case to the Court of Justice.
Initial Environmental Examination (IEE): Projects in which the requirement for an EIA needs to be ascertained, should be subjected to an Initial Environmental Examination (IEE). IEE is carried out to determine whether potentially adverse environmental effects are significant or whether mitigation measures can be adopted to reduce or eliminate these adverse effects.
International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA): IAIA is the International Association for Impact Assessment, the leading global network on best practice in the use of impact assessment for informed decision making regarding policies, programs, plans and projects.
International Law Commission: The International Law Comission was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 for the promotion of the progressive development of international law and it’s codification. On November 21, 1947, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 174, which provided for the creation of an "International Law Commission" in order to fulfill the obligations of the Charter. To the resolution was attached the statute of the Commission, which defined its purposes as being:
Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development: Johannesburg Declaration was adopted at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), sometimes referred to as Earth Summit 2002. The Johannesburg Declaration builds on earlier declarations made at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment at Stockholm in 1972, and the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. While committing the nations of the world to sustainable development, it also includes substantial mention of multilateralism as the path forward.
Liability principle: Applies to environmental damage and imminent threat of damage resulting from occupational activities, where it is possible to establish a causal link between the damage and the activity in question.
Mitigation measures: are recommended actions to reduce, avoid or offset the potential adverse environmental consequences of development activities.
Multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs): A multilateral environmental agreement (MEA) is a legally binding agreement between three or more states relating to the environment. They are predominantly produced by the United Nations. It is called a bilateral environmental agreement if the agreement is between two nation states.
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs): Group of volunteers, in general individuals or organisations, which is organized around specific issues, such as human rights, environment or health. NGOs are usually not affiliated with any government and organized on a local, national or international level. Task-oriented and driven by people with a common interest, NGOs perform a variety of service and humanitarian functions, bring citizen concerns to Governments, advocate and monitor policies and encourage political participation through provision of information. Some of the NGOs are organised as for-profit, others as non-profit organisations (which is the vast majority).
Nuclear Safety Convention: The Convention on Nuclear Safety is an international convention which aims to improve nuclear safety worldwide. All Member States of the European Union are party to the Convention. The Community established by the Euratom Treaty shares jurisdiction with Member States in the fields governed by the Convention. The Community acceded to the Convention on 30 January 2000. The Convention has three main objectives:
Official Journal (OJ) of the European Union: the official gazette of record for the European Union (EU). It is published in all of the official languages of the member states in two separate series, L (Legislation) and C (Information and Notices). Only legal acts published in the Official Journal are binding.
Ordinary legislative procedure: Following the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the codecision procedure becomes the ordinary legislative procedure of the European Union (EU) (Article 294 TFEU). This procedure gives the European Parliament, representing the Union’s citizens, the power to adopt instruments jointly with the Council of the European Union. It becomes co-legislator, on an equal footing with the Council, except in the cases provided for in the Treaties where the procedures regarding consultation and approval apply. The ordinary legislative procedure also includes qualified majority voting in the Council.
Polluter Pays Principle: The polluter-pays principle is the principle according to which the polluter should bear the cost of measures to reduce pollution according to the extent of either the damage done to society or the exceeding of an acceptable level (standard) of pollution.
Precautionary Principle: Principle adopted by the UN Conference on the Environment and Development (1992) states that in order to protect the environment, a precautionary approach should be widely applied, meaning that where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage to the environment, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.
Preventative Principle: This principle allows action to be taken to protect the environment at an early stage. It is now not only a question of repairing damages after they have occurred, but to prevent those damages occurring at all. This principle is not as far-reaching as the precautionary principle. It means in short terms: it is better to prevent than repair.
Preliminary ruling: Under Article 267 TFEU, the Court of Justice of the European Union has jurisdiction to give preliminary rulings concerning the interpretation of the Treaties and the validity and interpretation of acts of the institutions, bodies, offices or agencies of the Union. Where such a question is raised before any court or tribunal of a Member State, that court or tribunal may (shall in cases pending before a court or tribunal of a Member State against whose decisions there is no judicial remedy under national law), request the Court to give a ruling thereon.
Primacy of EU law: It is a principle established by the Court of Justice in Costa v. ENEL in 1964 by which the law of the European Union prevails (takes precedence) over the law of a Member State in conflict so that the EU law can be effectvely and uniformly applied in the entire Union.
Principle of Integration: This principle means that environmental considerations have to be fully taken into account in the elaboration and implementation of the other Union policies. It is based on the concept that environmental requirements and, subsequently, environmental policy cannot be seen as an isolated green policy; the environment is effected by other policies.
Principle of Proportionality: Similarly to the principle of subsidiarity, the principle of proportionality regulates the exercise of powers by the European Union. Under this rule, the involvement of the institutions must be limited to what is necessary to achieve the objectives of the Treaties.
Principle of Subsidiarity: The principle of subsidiarity aims at determining the level of intervention that is most relevant in the areas of competences shared between the EU and the Member States. This may concern action at European, national or local levels. In all cases, the EU may only intervene if it is able to act more effectively than Member States. The principle of subsidiarity also aims at bringing the EU and its citizens closer by guaranteeing that action is taken at local level where it proves to be necessary. However, the principle of subsidiarity does not mean that action must always be taken at the level that is closest to the citizen.
Proceedings for annulment: By an action for annulment under Article 263 TFEU, the applicant seeks the annulment of a measure (regulation, directive or decision) adopted by an institution. The Court of Justice has exclusive jurisdiction over actions brought by a Member State against the European Parliament and/or against the Council (apart from Council measures in respect of State aid, dumping and implementing powers) or brought by one Community institution against another.
Proceedings for failure to act: Proceedings for failure to act are legal proceedings brought before the Court of Justice of the European Union which enable the Court to control the inaction of a European Union institution, body, office or agency. If the inaction is illegal under European law, the Court shall confirm the failure to act and the institution, body, office or agency must take appropriate measures (Art. 265 TFEU).
Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR Protocol): This register is a publicly accessible electronic database. This database will meet the requirements of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN ECE) Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers, signed by the Community in May 2003. The information it contains can be searched using various search criteria like type of pollutant, geographical location, source facility etc. The register contains information on releases of pollutants to air, water and land, as well as off-site transfers of pollutants present in waste-water and waste.
Public authorities: Public authorities are corporate instruments of the State created by the Legislature to further public interests.
Regulation: A Regulation is a legal instrument adopted by the European Union according to a specific procedure. In contrast to a Directive, it has general application and is binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States (Art. 288 TFEU).
Rio Declaration on Environment and Development 1992: The 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development defines the rights of the people to be involved in the development of their economies, and the responsibilities of human beings to safeguard the common environment. The declaration builds upon the basic ideas concerning the attitudes of individuals and nations towards the environment and development, first identified at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (1972). The Rio Declaration states that long term economic progress is only ensured if it is linked with the protection of the environment.
Rotterdam Convention: The text of the Rotterdam Convention was adopted on 10 September 1998 by a Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The objectives of the Convention are to promote shared responsibility and cooperative efforts among Parties in the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals in order to protect human health and the environment from potential harm. In addition to contribute to the environmentally sound use of those hazardous chemicals, by facilitating information exchange about their characteristics, by providing for a national decision-making process on their import and export and by disseminating these decisions to Parties. The Convention entered into force on 24 February 2004.
Secondary legislation: The “secondary legislation” is the third major source of European law after the treaties (primary legislation) and international agreements. It can be defined as the totality of the legislative instruments adopted by the European institutions pursuant to the provisions of the treaties. Secondary legislation comprises the binding legal instruments (regulations, directives and decisions) and non-binding instruments (recommendations and opinions) specifically provided for in the Treaties (Article 288 TFEU).
State Liability principle: In 1991, in the Francovich v. Italy decision of the Court of Justice, the Court for the first time fully addressed the question of state liability for breach of Community law and its basis in EC, not national law. It ruled that it is a principle of Community law, inherent in the system of the EC Treaty, “that the Member States are obliged to make good loss and damage caused to individuals by breaches of Community law for which they can be held responsible”. And that “the conditions under which that liability gives rise to a right to reparation depend on the nature of the breach of Community law giving rise to the loss and damage.” State Liability principle: In 1991, in the Francovich v. Italy decision of the Court of Justice, the Court for the first time fully addressed the question of state liability for breach of Community law and its basis in EC, not national law. It ruled that it is a principle of Community law, inherent in the system of the EC Treaty, “that the Member States are obliged to make good loss and damage caused to individuals by breaches of Community law for which they can be held responsible”. And that “the conditions under which that liability gives rise to a right to reparation depend on the nature of the breach of Community law giving rise to the loss and damage.”
Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants: The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health or on the environment. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants was adopted by the Conference of Plenipotentiaries on 22 May 2001 in Stockholm, Sweden. The Convention entered into force on 17 May 2004.
Sustainable development: Sustainable development is a process which aims to reconcile economic development with the protection of social and environmental balance. The inclusion of environmental issues in the definition and implementation of other European policies (energy, research, industry, agriculture, etc.) is essential for achieving the objective of sustainable development. This principle was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht and in the Cardiff Summit in 1998 and formed the cornerstone for coordinated action at European level.
Treaties*: The creation of the first “Community”, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), was the starting point for over 50 years of European treaty-making. Between 1951 (ECSC Treaty) and 2001(Treaty of Nice), no fewer than 16 treaties were signed. This series of treaties did far more than simply amend the original text: new treaties were born and gradually extended the family.
United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD): The European Community adopted the United Nations Convention to combat desertification in countries seriously affected by drought and/or desertification by means of this decision and welcomed also the signing of the Convention in Paris on 14 and 15 October 1994 by a large number of States and one regional economic integration organization. The aim of this United Nations Convention is to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought in those countries experiencing serious drought/or desertification, particularly in Africa through effective action at all levels. These measures are underpinned by international cooperation and partnership arrangements, under an integrated approach complying with Agenda 21, to contribute to sustainable development in the areas concerned. Action 21 is an international action plan designed to achieve sustainable development in the 21st century. The Convention consists of 40 articles and 5 annexes defining the arrangements for implementing the Convention in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, Northern Mediterranean and Central and Eastern Europe. The Convention entered into force on 26 December 1996.
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE): UNECE was set up in 1947 to encourage economic cooperation among its member states. It is one of five regional commissions under the administrative direction of United Nations. It has 56 member states, and reports to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). As well as countries in Europe, it includes Canada, the Central Asian republics, Israel and the United States of America. The UNECE secretariat headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland.
*The principal treaties are as follows::
A draft European constitutional treaty was signed in October 2004. Intended to repeal and replace by a single instrument all the existing treaties with the exception of the Euratom Treaty, it consolidated 50 years of European treaties. Following the difficulties in ratifying the Treaty in some Member States, the Heads of State and Government decided, in June 2005, to launch a “period of reflection” on the future of Europe.
At the European Council meeting in June 2007, European leaders reached a compromise and agreed to convene an Inter-Governmental Conference to finalise and adopt not a constitution but a “reform treaty” for the European Union. The Lisbon Treaty, signed on 17 December 2007, entered into force on 1 December 2009. It comprises the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the Treaty on the functioning of the EU (TFEU).
Developed by the Academy of European Law (ERA)