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Environmental modernization and administrative simplification in Portugal

Alexandra Aragão

elni Review 2016, Issue 1, pp. 10-17.

The fight against bureaucracy has been a constitutional goal in Portugal since 1982, when the first constitutional amendments were made. In Article 267(1), the following was included on the organization and goals of the Public Administration: “the Public Administration shall be structured in such a way as to avoid bureaucratisation, bring departments and services closer to local people and ensure that interested parties take part in its effective management, particularly via public associations, residents’ organisations and other forms of democratic representation”. Unfortunately, the mere fact of having a constitutional article dedicated to bureaucracy does not automatically fulfil the intended goal unless there is also the political will, governmental commitment and institutional capacity to achieve the objective.
Since 2005 the conditions for serious and systematic simplification have finally been met. In this article, the legal and political context in which the first modernization initiatives occurred, firstly, is briefly explained. Then, the article moves on to a more detailed presentation and critical analysis of the recent legal changes that took place in 2015 and transformed the environmental bureaucracy landscape in Portugal.

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  1. Presidency of the Council Ministers, 2005, Resolution by the Council of Ministers in 90/2005 of 13 May.
  2. President of the Republic of Portugal, 2007, Decree 49-C/2007 of the President of the Republic of the 17 May.
  3. Presidency of the Council of Ministers, 2015, Decree-Law 251-A/2015, of 17 December.
  4. Presidency of the Council of Ministers, 2007, Decree-Law 116/2007 of 27 April.
  5. National Assembly, 2007, Law 7/2007 of 5 February.
  6. Ministry of the Economy, Innovation and Development, 2010 Decree-Law 92/2010 of 26 July.
  7. Presidency of the Council of Ministers, 2011, Decree-Law 48/2011 of 1 April.
  8. Ministry of Economy, 2015, Decree-Law 10/2015 of 16 January.
  9. OECD, 2008, “Making Life Easy for Citizens and Businesses in Portugal, Administrative Simplification and E-Government”. DOI:
  10. National Assembly, 2014, Resolution 31/2014 of 11 April of the Assembly of the Republic.
  11. Report of the Expert Group instituted by the Enterprise and Industry Directorate General of the European Commission: “Think Small First – Considering SME interests in policy-making including the application of an ‘SME Test’”, adopted in March 2009.
  12. Presidency of the Council of Ministers, 2014, Decree-Law 72/2014 of 13 May establishing the Administrative Modernization network.
  13. Presidency of the Council of Ministers, 2014, Resolution of the Council of Ministers 15/2013 of 19 March.
  14. Presidency of the Council of Ministers, 2014, Resolution of the Council of Ministers 55-A/2014 of 15 September.
  15. Ministry of Economy, 2014, Decree-Law 74/2014 of 13 May.
  16. European Institute of Public Administration, 2015, “List of EPSA 2015 Best Practice Certificate Recipients, The Public Sector as Partner for Better Society”.
  17. Lusa, 2015, Opposition united in criticism of Environment decree that it says it doesn't know about.
  18. Ministry of Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy, 2015, Decree-Law 75/2015 of 11 May.
  19. Ministry of the Economy and Employment, 2012, Decree-Law 169/2012 of 1 August, amended by the Decree-Law 73/2015 of 11 May.
  20. Ministry of Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy, 2015 Decree-Law 150/2015 of 5 August, transposing the Seveso III Directive entered into force in August 2015.
  21. Alessandro Natalini, 2002, Le semplificazioni amministrative, Il Mulino, Studi e Ricerche, Bologna, 2002.
  22. Ordinance 279/2015 of 14 September.
  23. Ministry of Environment, Spatial Planning and Energy, 2015, Decree-Law 75/2015 of 15 May.
  24. Court of Justice of the European Union, 2001, Judgment of the Court (Third Chamber) of 14 June 2001. Commission of the European Communities v Kingdom of Belgium. Failure by a Member State to fulfil its obligations - Failure to implement Directives 75/442/EEC, 76/464/EEC, 80/68/EEC, 84/360/EEC and 85/337/EEC - Pollution and nuisance - Waste - Dangerous substances - Pollution of the aquatic environment - Air pollution (Case C-230/00).
  25. Aragão, Alexandra, “A avaliação europeia de impacte ambiental: a sina belga e a ventura lusa”, in: Revista do CEDOUA, no.1, vol. 3/1999, page 87 to 113.
  26. Ministry of Agriculture, Sea, Environment and Spatial Planning, 2013, Decree-Law 151-B/2013 of 31 October.
  27. Maria Manuel Leitão Marques, Fernanda Paula Oliveira, Ana Cláudia Guedes and Mariana Rafeiro, 2014, Sistema da Indústria Responsável, Comentário ao novo Regime de Acesso à Atividade Industrial, Almedina, Coimbra.