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Legal Enforcement


Benefits delivered through the enforcement of EU environmental legislation

The study aims at understanding the effects of the enforcement action pursued by the European Commission on the implementation of EU Environmental law in the Member States. To that end, it provides an assessment of impacts of the enforcement policy of the Commission, in qualitative and, when that was possible, quantitative terms.

The study is the first time the impact of the Commission's enforcement action in the field of the environment is assessed. The assessment is made through a case-by-case analysis of a selection of only 244 infringement cases (out of several thousands) brought by the Commission between 1994 and 2014 against the 15 Member States that joined before 2004. These cases relate to non-compliance with a selection of ten directives covering five environmental sectors: waste, water, nature protection, air and environmental impact assessment.

The study, which was built upon existing methods for evaluating benefits, suggests that enforcement action by the European Commission brings benefits in terms of reduced loss caused by the lack of implementation of EU laws. Beyond that, benefits to citizens, duty-holders (authorities and businesses) and the society as a whole can also be observed. The enforcement action plays a key role in the protection of the rule of law across the EU and benefits are observed in terms of better governance, with improved visibility and better inclusion of citizens in the protection of their environment.

For example, enforcement action relating to the increasing reuse/recycling of waste helps avoid delays in reaching the targets for reuse and recycling, with benefits amounting to an average of EUR 1.2 billion per case, whereas the benefits generated by EU enforcement leading to improved bathing water quality were estimated to amount to EUR 97 million on average per case analysed, per year. Similar benefits likely arise in cases based on Directives and involving Member States that are not covered by the study.


Each year the Commission as a whole publishes an Annual Report which also contains a specific chapter on the work of the Environment Directorate General.

In the past, the Commission also published reports on the Implementation and Enforcement of Community Environmental Law.