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16.2.4.  Environment and other common policies of the EU

    Article 11 of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU stipulates that environmental protection requirements must be integrated into the definition and implementation of the Union policies and activities, in particular with a view to promoting sustainable development. This is meant to ensure environmental protection in all its forms by means of prior analysis of the potential problems in this sector and of the adoption of measures which integrate environmental requirements into the planning and performance of economic and social activities. In fact, many environmental issues such as climate change, acidification and waste management can only be tackled by an interplay between the main economic public and private actors, not only by legislative means, but also by an extended and integrated mix of other instruments, such as standards, certification systems, voluntary schemes or economic instruments. Therefore, the sustainable protection of the environment depends to a large extent on the common policies pursued in the fields of industry, energy, transport, agriculture and tourism, which are in turn dependent on the capacity of the environment to sustain them.

    In the related field of civil protection, the Union Civil Protection Mechanism aims to strengthen the cooperation between the Union and the Member States and to facilitate coordination in the field of civil protection in order to improve the effectiveness of systems for preventing, preparing for and responding to natural and man-made disasters [Decision 1313/2013, last amended by Decision 2014/762]. The protection aimed at by the Union Mechanism covers primarily people, but also the environment and property, including cultural heritage, against all kinds of natural and man-made disasters, including the consequences of acts of terrorism, technological, radiological or environmental disasters, marine pollution, and acute health emergencies, occurring inside or outside the Union. In the case of the consequences of acts of terrorism or radiological disasters, the Union Mechanism may cover only preparedness and response actions. In the event of major disasters, the Community should show its solidarity with the population of the regions concerned by providing financial assistance, through the European Union Solidarity Fund, to contribute to a rapid return to normal living conditions in the disaster-stricken regions [Regulation 2012/2002]. Union emergency support may be awarded through specific measures appropriate to the economic situation in the event of an ongoing or potential natural or man-made disaster [Regulation 2016/369]. A Directive established a framework for the assessment and management of flood risks, aimed at the reduction of the adverse consequences for human health, the environment, cultural heritage and economic activity associated with floods in the Union [Directive 2007/60].

    In a communication, drawn up in response to a request by the Cologne European Council in June 1999, the Commission set out a long-term European strategy for the progressive integration of environmental issues with economic policy [COM/2000/576]. The essential elements of this strategy are as follows: a transparent approach to environmental integration, based on efficient target setting derived from a comprehensive analysis of the available scientific and technical data; consistency of the economic policy with the strategy for sustainable development; integration of the examination of the environmental impact of economic activity and regulation into the process of multilateral surveillance of structural reform and into the economic reform process; incorporation of the objectives of environmental integration into the broad economic policy guidelines (BEPGs) [see section 7.3.1]; contribution of taxation policies to environmental integration; use of an appropriate mix of market-based instruments and regulations, including the removal of subsidies which are harmful to the environment.

    Enterprise policy can contribute to sustainable development through sustainable use of natural resources, waste management, innovation and standardisation. The industrial sector has to take ecological requirements increasingly into account in the choice of products and manufacturing processes. Thus, henceforth the environment is one of the factors making a difference to the competitive position of companies or industries. Below we shall examine the constraints imposed on heavily polluting sectors like the chemicals, steel and detergents sectors. On the other hand, the so-called "Eco-industry" is a rapidly expanding market with increasing importance for Europe. It covers not only the supply of goods and services to firms for pollution control and abatement but also the expenditures made for improving production methods, using energy more efficiently and developing less polluting products. In addition, the harmonisation of laws on quality standards for industrial products is in reality targeted on a twofold objective: the uniform protection of man and the European environment, and the removal of barriers to trade resulting from differences in the standards or technical specifications in EU countries. These two objectives are pursued by environmental control of products and the granting of a European eco-label [Regulation 66/2010, see section 16.2.2]. The Commission has set up a programme to help small and medium-sized enterprises comply with environmental legislation [COM/2007/379].

    Environment policy has close ties with energy policy, as the production and use of energy are amongst the principal sources of air pollution (burning of fossil fuels) and water pollution (through the discharge of cooling-waters and polluting substances by refineries and nuclear power stations). It is obvious that the policy for the rational use of energy and encouragement of soft (non-polluting) energy is first and foremost in the interests of the environment. It should also be noted that, with the exception of the management of radioactive waste, the bulk of European work on nuclear safety is carried out in the framework of the Euratom Treaty and therefore under energy policy rather than environment policy [see sections 18.3.1 and 19.2.3].

    The various means of transport, particularly in urban areas, are another source of pollution and many environmental measures are designed to reduce it. With the aim of defining a common strategy on transport and environment policies, the Commission adopted a Green Paper in February 1992 on the impact of transport on the environment [COM/92/46]. After taking stock of the adverse effects of transport on the environment and reviewing trends and forecasts relating to transport demand and traffic volume, the Commission outlined a common strategy for developing transport in an environmentally compatible way.

    The European action programme on the environment is underpinned by a multiannual programme of research in the field of the environment and the climate covering the study of the natural environment, global change, environmental technologies, space technologies for environmental monitoring and the human dimension of environmental change [see section 18.2.6]. The development of clean products and processes in the European Union does not only prevent rapidly increasing clean-up costs but also stimulates the diffusion of European research to the rest of the world who needs it badly.

    The common agricultural policy developed during the 1970s without any consideration whatsoever for the environment. Thus, it resulted in the ill-considered use of pesticides and fertilisers, which are very harmful to the environment. Fortunately, such excesses seem to have been curbed since the mid-1980s, and agricultural and environmental policies now have a common goal, which is to improve the Union's rural area [see section 21.5.3]. In this framework, the Council adopted: a Regulation on organic production of agricultural products and its presentation on agricultural products and foodstuffs [Regulation 834/2007, last amended by Regulation 2015/931, see section 21.4.2]; a Directive on the placing of plant protection products on the market [Directive 91/414]; and a Directive on the protection of waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources [Directive 91/676].

    The sustainable development of resources is fully integrated into the common fisheries policy by means of measures taken to conserve resources, preserve marine biodiversity and rationalise fishing. The environmental impact of fisheries is taken into account, in particular, by the systematic consultation of scientific experts when legislative measures on the exploitation of resources are drafted. Improved measures for sustainable fishing are also developed by scientific research [see section 22.2]

    Common regional policy and environment policy are complementary, as regional aid can help to reverse inordinate urbanisation, which gives rise to ecological problems, whilst measures to combat pollution can have a dissuasive effect on the establishment of industries in congested regions of the European Union. This is why, the European framework on State aids for environmental protection takes account of the environmental programme and encourages the application of the "polluter pays" principle [see section 15.5.2]. The Cohesion Fund, the Structural Funds [see sections 12.1.2 and 12.3], the rural development policy of the common agricultural policy and the conservation of fishery resources policy [see sections 21.5.2 and 22.2.2] take increasingly account of the sustainable development objective of the common environment policy.

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