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Legal Enforcement

It is the Commission’s responsibility under Article 17(1) of the Treaty on European Union to ensure that both the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union as well as measures adopted pursuant to them are correctly applied. The Commission is therefore often referred to as the "Guardian of the Treaties". With over 200 legal acts to monitor in 27 Member States, this is a major task in the environmental field.

These legislative measures cover all environmental sectors, including water, air, nature, waste, noise, and chemicals, and others which deal with cross-cutting issues such as environmental impact assessment, access to environmental information, public participation in environmental decision-making and liability for environmental damage. Over the last 40 years, the body of law which makes up the European environmental acquis has steadily expanded although in more recent years it has been reaching maturity. Nevertheless, this body of law is continually under assessment with significant developments having taken place in the chemicals sector, but also in the waste, air and water sectors.

On 7 March 2012 the Commission adopted a Communication Improving the delivery of benefits from EU environment measures: building confidence through better knowledge and responsiveness.  The Communication sets out ideas aimed at providing Member States with tools to improve implementation on the ground. It complements 2008 Commission Communication on implementing European Community Environmental Law which sets out the Commission's enforcement strategy to tackle breaches of the European Union's environmental protection laws. Both of them fit within a wider Commission strategy for improving implementation of EU law announced in a previous Communication: A Europe of Results - Applying Community Law of 2007.