What does "EIA" mean?
EIA is the abbreviation of the proceeding of environmental impact assessment which procedure is to ensure that the environmental implications of decisions are taken into account before the decisions are made.
The first EIA Directive (85/337/EEC)1 was in force since 1985 and applied to a wide range of public and private projects defined in its Annexes I and II.
In case of projects listed in Annex I it is mandatory to carry out an EIA, as those projects are considered having significant effects on the environment. The projects listed in Annex II are not automatically subjected to an EIA; national authorities have to decide whether the EIA is needed resulting from the “screening procedure” carried out on a case-by-case basis or according to thresholds and/or criteria.
The Directive of 1985 was amended three times.
In 1997 the Directive was modified in line with the UN ECE Espoo Convention on EIA introducing transboundary aspects in the assessment procedures.
In 2003, the EIA rules were brought in line with the Aarhus Convention on public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters by inserting the provisions on public participation into the Directive.
In 2009, the Annexes I and II of the Directive were amended by adding projects related to the transport, capture and storage of carbon dioxide (CO2).
In 2011, the Directive of 1985 and its three amendments have been codified by Directive 2011/92/EU (EIA Directive) which has been substantially amended in 2014 by Directive 2014/52/EU.
Review of the EIA Directive in 2014
Due to its amendment 2014, the EIA Directive contains clearer requirements for the assessment of the projects’ impact on biodiversity, climate change, disaster risks (including, for example, flooding) and the landscape. These areas are covered generally, but the new rules will likely result in an increased emphasis in these areas, as those are to be reflected better. The EIA procedures shall be simplified due to the newly adopted rules in order to reduce the administrative burden.
J&E's focus on implementation
Member States of the EU have to apply these new rules as from 16th of May 2017 at the latest.
By applying the new rules, the quality and the content of the EIA reports will be improved. EIA reports shall be made more understandable for the public, especially as regards assessments of the current state of the environment and alternatives to the project.
Taking into account the substantive changes in the EIA Directive, the national legislation on EIA shall be adjusted where the EU’s rules apply.
J&E and its members on national level are concerned with the EIA practice – in cases and legal consultations – and law. In 2013 and in the preceding years J&E participated very actively in the EU-wide revision procedure of the EIA Directive; collected national case law examples on the application of the current legislation, prepared recommendations for the EU decision-makers, organized meetings with stakeholders at the national and at the EU level and lobbied intensely together with other NGOs.
Presently, in order to contribute to the better and more efficient implementation of the EU legislation and - in the long term - to improve the quality of the EIA procedures by meaningful transposition and enforcement of the revised EIA Directive, J&E is working on awareness raising at the level of the Member States among environmental authorities and NGOs on the improvements of the revised EIA Directive and we highlight and communicate common issues of the implementation of the new EIA Directive.