Environmental Assessments

In the past years, J&E worked separately on two types of environmental assessments – the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and appropriate assessments (AA, assessments related to Natura 2000 areas). Starting with this year, we will be taking a more systemic approach and will advocate for better quality and transparency regarding 4 main types of environmental issues, adding the strategic environmental assessments (SEA) and assessments required under the Water Framework Directive (WFD) art 4(7) to areas of our interest.

Siim Vahtrus, Topic Leader

Successes from the previous period.

Over the last few years, we and our NGO partners successfully avoided harmful amendments to the EU Nature Directives, which may have compromised the AA system as well. Together with our partners, we communicated our key asks as regards ensuring better implementation of the Directives in this respect to the European Commission. By now, we can proudly say quite a few of these ideas were reflected in the Commission’s Action Plan on Nature, People and the Economy.

On the EIA front, our members played an active role in shaping the national transposition of the recently updated EIA Directive. Part of this exercise was also collecting, sharing and using best practices in our Member States. As indicated by a study we conducted at the end of last year, there are some improvements, but a lot of work remains to be done, as we recently wrote to the European Commission.

Where do you want to go in 2018 and how?

In 2018, our focus on EU level will be on two legal instruments currently under review, i.e. the SEA Directive and Water Framework Directive, art 4(7) of which also provides for assessment of impacts as regards projects that may harm the status of water bodies. In both these areas, our aim is to increase the transparency and quality of assessments, either by changes in the Directives themselves or meaningful changes to application practices. On national level, we’ll continue to focus on improving the quality and transparency of EIAs and AAs in practice.

For our work on EU level, which should as always be evidence-based, we intend to start the year with studying the current application practice, based on which we’ll provide input in public consultations, formulate position papers and engage in other advocacy-work on Brussels level. The latter will, of course, be done in close cooperation with our partners, including EEB, ClientEarth and others.

On national level, we aim to tackle the implementation gap present for AAs and EIAs by advocacy with national decision-makers, strategic cases and trainings.

Next steps

In upcoming months, studies on both the application of SEA Directive and WFD assessments will be kicked off with the view of completing these by end of April/beginning of May. These studies will be based on questionnaires, for which we will ask our members’ and partners input in March, so have your analytical thinking caps ready!

On EU level, the next big expected move is submission of a formal complaint to the European Commission on the poor practice of appropriate assessments in several J&E countries (Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovakia).

In addition to these major developments, work will of course continue on national level to improve laws and practice, using the comparative knowledge our network provides.

Members of the topic.

Our core team for this year will include (topic leaders in bold):

-          Siim Vahtrus and Merlyn Mannov from Estonian Environmental Law Center (Estonia)

-          Senka Vrbica from PIC (Slovenia)                                  

-          Agnes Gajdics and Sandor Fülöp from EMLA (Hungary)

-          Imrich Vozar from Via Iuris (Slovakia)

However, as the studies planned will require the active contribution of all members, we are still waiting for the team to grow. If interested, write Siim siim@k6k.ee.