European Environment Agency

European Environment Agency (EEA)

The European Environment Agency (EEA) is the EU body dedicated to providing sound and independent information on the environment. We are a main information source for those involved in developing, adopting, implementing and evaluating environmental policy, as well as the general public.

Our aim is to help the EU and member countries make informed decisions about improving the environment, integrating environmental considerations into economic policies and moving towards sustainability To do this, we provide a wide range of information and assessments. This covers the state of the environment and trends in it, together with pressures on the environment and the economic and social driving forces behind them. It also covers policies and their effectiveness. We try to identify possible future trends and problems using scenarios and other techniques.

A major source of information is the European environment information and observation network (Eionet). The EEA is responsible for developing the network and coordinating its activities. To do this, we work closely together with the national focal points, typically national environment agencies or environment ministries in the member countries. They are responsible for coordinating national networks involving about 300 institutions in all.

To support data collection, management and analysis we have established and work closely with five European topic centres covering water, air and climate change, nature protection and biodiversity, waste and material flows, and terrestrial environment.

We also work closely together with other European and international institutions such as the Statistical Office (Eurostat) and Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The EEA and Eionet were established by Council Regulation (EEC) No 1210/90 of 7 May 1990 with later amendments (1999, 2003). The Agency is located in Copenhagen and by 2004 had a staff of approximately 115. The Agency’s 2004 budget is about EUR 31 million.

Membership is open to countries that are not Member States of the European Union. We now have 31 member countries: 25 EU Member States together with Bulgaria, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Romania and Turkey.

Water Framework Directive

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) is the most substantial piece of EC water legislation to date and is designed to improve and integrate the way water bodies are managed throughout Europe. In the UK, much of the implementation work will be undertaken by competent authorities. It came into force on 22 December 2000, and was put into UK law (transposed) in 2003. Member States must aim to reach good chemical and ecological status in inland and coastal waters by 2015.

It is designed to:

  • enhance the status and prevent further deterioration of aquatic ecosystems and associated wetlands, which depend on the aquatic ecosystems
  • promote the sustainable use of water
  • reduce pollution of water, especially by ‘priority’ and ‘priority hazardous’ substances (see Daughter Directives)
  • ensure progressive reduction of groundwater pollution.

EU Environment Policy

he Environment Council meets formally four times a year. Additionally, there are two informal meetings. The council is formed by EU ministers for the environment.

The Single Act, which came into force in 1987, specifically made environmental policy an area of Community competence. Under Article 174 of the EC Treaty, as amended in 1992 by the Maastricht Treaty and in 1997 by the Treaty of Amsterdam, the European Union seeks to:

preserve, protect and improve the quality of the environment;
protect human health;
use natural resources in a prudent and rational manner;
promote measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems.
At the beginning of 2000, the European Commission submitted its White Paper on environmental liability, which introduced the “polluter-pays” principle. The aim was to formulate a Community regulation on environmental damage. National legislation is often based on the idea that the environment is a common good, and that society is therefore collectively responsible.

The Commission White Paper adopts a different approach, whereby the party responsible for the damage must meet the costs. The result was a draft directive on environmental liability in January 2002, focusing both on preventing and remedying damage caused to the environment. This same principle is an important aspect of the Sixth Action Programme for the Environment, Environment 2010: our future, our choice (2001-2010), adopted by the Council in June 2001.

In the private sector the Commission wishes to cooperate with enterprises and consumers in order to promote environmentally friendly production and consumption. The instruments used to achieve this aim include legal measures on environmental liability, fiscal measures, as well as more information for consumers who expect enterprises to behave in an environmentally friendly manner. With the “Greening the Market” formula (making the market greener and ecologically friendlier, the Commission emphasises that positive (ecological) behaviour deserves to be rewarded.

Over the years, the European Union has adopted a range of directives on the environment which limit toxic emissions from private cars, heavy-duty lorries and industry as well as waste water discharge.

The energy sector, meanwhile, should strive primarily to improve energy efficiency and formulate strategic technological development programmes seeking to limit the use of fossil fuels with high carbon content and stimulate the use of sustainable sources of energy. The council has agreed to adopt national and Community measures wherever necessary in order to restrict as far as possible the environmental consequences of the liberalisation of the electricity and gas markets.

In the agriculture sector the aim is to strike a better balance between agriculture, rural development and natural resources. Specific objectives include reducing the nitrate content of groundwater and restricting the use of pesticides. In November 1999, the council gave the go-ahead to a strategy seeking to integrate environmental requirements into the Common Agricultural Policy by means of reforms undertaken as part of Agenda 2000.

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