The rule of law is a defining characteristic of any civilised democratic society, and effective implementation and enforcement of the laws that exist is a fundamental aspect of the rule of law. Few will dispute this, and indeed the broad consensus among political leaders on the importance of better implementation and enforcement is well reflected in the Seventh Environmental Action Programme which commits to giving top priority to improved implementation of the EU’s environmental acquis by Member States through a number of specific actions. The EU has an impressive body of environmental law and fully implementing it would not only help to protect the environment, but would also restore citizens’ trust in the EU. Despite this, there is a general reluctance to take the concrete steps which would bring about better implementation, for example by increasing enforcement capacity, putting in place more transparent monitoring mechanisms and coming forward with long-awaited legislative proposals on access to justice and environmental inspections. As a result, the enforcement record in the environmental sector remains poor. The rule of law also implies greater transparency and accountability of the EU institutions, with the rights of access to information, participation and access to justice being underpinned by effective laws. Unfortunately the failure to address public concerns in this area tend to reinforce the perception that the EU is more about creating a corporate Europe than a citizens’ Europe and to add weight to the rise of Euroscepticism.
Moderator: Stephen Stec, Adjunct Professor, Central European University
Rapporteur: Ana Barreira, President, Instituto Internacional de Derecho y Medio Ambiente / International Institute for Law and the Environment (IIDMA)
Liam Cashman, Senior legal expert, DG Environment, European Commission
Olivier Hoedeman, Research and Campaign Coordinator, Corporate Europe Observatory
Joined by Jerzy Jendroska, President, Polish Environmental Law Centre