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16.2.3.  EU environmental notification, information and monitoring

    The European Environment Agency, which is established near Copenhagen, provides the Commission and the national authorities with the technical, scientific and economic information necessary for the framing and implementation of measures and legislation relating to the environment [Regulation 401/2009]. Being an EU body open to third countries because of the multinational character of problems and work concerning the environment, the Agency acts as a European network for monitoring and obtaining information on the environment. The European pollutant release and transfer register ("the European PRTR") aims to contribute to the prevention and reduction of pollution by providing data for policy-makers as well as facilitating public participation in decision-making [Regulation 166/2006].

    In any event, the Commission receives information on the legislative or administrative intentions of the Member States. It verifies the transposition by the Member States of European legislation into national law and initiates proceedings against States which either fail to implement European provisions on the environment in full or correctly or do not give notification of domestic measures on the environment. The Commission has an important ally in the matter, namely the citizens in the Member States, who are concerned at environmental damage and make a growing number of complaints to it each year [see section 9.3]. When it receives a complaint from an individual citizen or association, the Commission carries out an inquiry to verify the facts, and if it considers that European law has been infringed it initiates the procedure provided for in Article 258 of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU [see section 4.1.2]. A Directive, implementing the UN Aarhus Convention, guarantees freedom of access to and dissemination of information on the environment held by public authorities and sets the basic conditions under which information on the environment should be made available to the public [Directive 2003/4]. The latter, through pressure that it can exercise on national authorities can contribute a great deal to improving the respect of European legislation [See e.g. Case C-237/07]. The provisions of the Aarhus Convention apply also to European institutions and bodies [Regulation 1367/2006].

    In 1973 the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States meeting in Council adopted an Agreement on information for the Commission and for the Member States with a view to possible harmonisation throughout the Union of urgent measures concerning the protection of the environment and intervention if the draft rules did not comply with European policy [Agreement of 5 March 1973 and Agreement of 15 July 1974]. However, since the end of the 1980s national drafts were increasingly notified under the Directive laying down a procedure for the provision of information in the field of technical standards and regulations, discussed under the heading of technical barriers to trade in the chapter on the common market [Directive 98/34, see section 6.2.2]. As the Court of Justice noted in its judgment of 20 September 1988 on the "Danish bottles" case [Case 302/86], national environmental measures are likely to affect completion of the internal market and therefore need to be notified under the general notification procedure.

    For their own information, the national and European authorities dispose of a common procedure for the setting up and constant updating of an inventory of sources of information on the environment in the Union [Decision 76/161]. A Council Directive standardised and rationalised the environment reports produced by the Member States [Directive 91/692]. The Member States have established a reciprocal exchange of information and data from networks and individual stations measuring ambient air pollution [Directive 2008/50, last amended by Directive 2015/1480]. Common monitoring mechanisms such as the Parliament and Council recommendation providing for minimum criteria for environmental inspections in the Member States [Recommendation 2001/331], seek to integrate the environmental objectives of the Union into national policies. The Union has established a common framework for the collection, compilation, transmission and evaluation of European environmental economic accounts, as satellite accounts for the European system of national and regional accounts (ESA 95), consistent with the System of National Accounts (SNA), adopted by the United Nations Statistical Commission in February 1993 [Regulation 691/2011, last amended by Regulation 2016/172].

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