A more constructive role for civil society in implementing environmental law (Exploratory opinion at the request of the European Commission)

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Udvalgets udtalelse: A more constructive role for civil society in implementing environmental law (Exploratory opinion at the request of the European Commission)

Key points

  • The EESC stresses the fact that environmental legislation is not properly implemented because of a lack of political will at all institutional levels.
  • The EESC therefore calls on the EC to develop a better compliance framework at EU level. This should happen with more transparent and resolute handling of complaints and infringements, but also by adding greater human and financial resources (for instance under the Multiannual Financial Framework – MFF). The aim is to explain what EU environmental legislation is, check whether it is properly implemented, evaluate it and assist the courts to carry out their remit when necessary.
  • The EESC supports the Environmental Implementation Review (EIR) process, which is key to providing a wide range of environmental information on issues such as sustainability, climate change and quality of life in Europe. However, it is waiting for the EC and the Member States to fulfil their obligations by integrating the views of civil society organisations (CSOs) into the EIR and country reports.
  • Environmental CSOs and SMEs should be more involved in providing information to employees and shaping environmental education and training to ensure that the general public has a basic understanding of these issues.
  • In order to reduce our ecological footprint and strengthen sustainable development, the EESC urges Member States to implement fully Green Public Procurement (GPP) strategies in a way that is regularly and directly supervised by the EC. The latter should go further in requiring CSOs to be consulted when preparing GPP and finalising incoming bids. The possibility of using EU funds in order to strengthen the positive impact of GPP should also be put forward by the EC.
  • The EU must help to develop local development models and promote widespread domestic protection of the environment. For these reasons, a more visible EU presence is needed locally in order to ensure that EU funds are well spent and relevant public and private stakeholders are involved in properly implementing environmental law and governance.
  • The Member States and the EC should extend more political, financial and professional support to SMEs and CSOs for focusing on protecting the environment after 2020.