Skip to main content

The EU as guarantor of environmental protection in Germany

Thomas Ormond

elni Review 2017, Issue 1, pp. 17-24. https://doi.org/10.46850/elni.2017.003

In recent years it has become fashionable again among politicians and publicists across Europe to practice ‘Brussels bashing’ and make the EU responsible for many ills of globalisation and modern society. This applies in particular to the field of environmental law. The European Union has been active in the field of environmental protection since the 1970s, i.e. since a time when there was no Union yet but a European Economic Community (EEC), a European Coal and Steel Community and a European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). The EEC Treaty of 1957 did not know the term ‘environmental protection’ and for the next decades did not contain any explicit legislative competence for this subject matter. The main instrument of EU environmental policy is the directive. In the European context it means a framework law, as proposed by the EU Commission and adopted by the Council and the European Parliament, which the Member States have to transpose within certain deadlines into their national law, and specify and implement by their authorities into practice. The directive is binding as regards the objective (the result to be achieved) but leaves the choice of form and methods to the national authorities. It is estimated that 80% of current environmental law in Germany (as well as probably in other Member States) is determined by the European Union. 
The author of this article presents his thoughts on how the EU shapes Member State environmental law and policy, highlighting inter alia “innovation from Brussels” such as EIA, access to environmental information and climate protection, as well as the systematic and risk-based approach as hallmark of EU legislation.

Access full article

References

  1. 'Die EU als Garantin des Umweltschutzes in Deutschland” in issues no. 198 (Sept./Oct. 2016) and 199 (Nov./Dec. 2016) of the periodical “Recht der Natur – Schnellbrief”, at pp. 50-54, 62-66.
  2. H.M. Enzensberger, Sanftes Monster Brüssel oder Die Entmündigung Europas (Berlin: Edition Suhrkamp, 2011).
  3. D. Sauter, ‘Für Europa – aber für ein besseres Europa’, Bayernkurier, 27.6.2016.
  4. European Commission, 2016, Water: Commission refers GERMANY to the Court of Justice of the EU over water pollution caused by nitrates.
  5. Press statement of the Environment Minister of the state Baden-Württemberg of 16.3.2017.
  6. L. Krämer, ‘Thirty Years of Environmental Governance in the European Union’, in: R. Macrory (ed.), Reflections on 30 Years of EU Environmental Law, (2006) Groningen: Europa Law Publishing.
  7. Programme of action (ECSC, Euratom, EEC) on the environment, 1973-1976.
  8. Decision No 1386/2013/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 November 2013 on a General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’ Text with EEA relevance, OJ 2013 L 354.
  9. Directive 2000/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for the Community action in the field of water policy, OJ 2000 L 327/1.
  10. Regulation (EU) No 1257/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 November 2013 on ship recycling and amending Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006 and Directive 2009/16/EC Text with EEA relevance, OJ 2013 L 330/1.
  11. D. Delhaes, T. Hoppe, S. Kersting, ‘Germany Hits the Brakes on EU Emissions Law. Germanys’s transport ministry has attempted a last-minute blocking maneuver on an EU proposal to toughen emissions testing standard’,Handelsblatt Global, 9.5.2017.
  12. S. Stübig, Kein Anlass zum Schulterklopfen – Eine Bestandsaufnahme zur deutschen UN- Politik im Bereich Umwelt, Entwicklung und Nachhaltigkeit, 24.9.2013.
  13. European Commission, 2003, Proposal for a Directive Of The European Parliament And Of The Council on access to justice in environmental, COM(2003) 624 final.
  14. Official Journal of the European Union, C 153, 21 May 2014.
  15. F. Jacobs, The Role of the European Court of Justice in the Protection of the Environment, in: (2006) Journal of Environmental Law, at p. 185.
  16. Meßerschmidt, Europäisches Umweltrecht, (2011), Munich: C.H. Beck, at p. 485.
  17. Court of Justice of the European Union, 2011, Judgment of the Court (Fourth Chamber) of 12 May 2011. Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland, Landesverband Nordrhein-Westfalen eV v Bezirksregierung Arnsberg. Reference for a preliminary ruling: l’Oberverwaltungsgericht für das Land Nordrhein-Westfalen - Germany. Directive 85/337/EEC - Environmental impact assessment - Aarhus Convention - Directive 2003/35/EC - Access to justice - Non-governmental organisations for the protection of the environment (Case C-115/09).
  18. Court of Justice of the European Union, 2013, Judgment of the Court (Fourth Chamber), 18 April 2013. L v M. Request for a preliminary ruling from the Verwaltungsgerichtshof Baden‑Württemberg. Directive 2001/42/EC — Assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment — Article 3(4) and (5) — Determination of the type of plans likely to have significant environmental effects — Building plan ‘for development within an urban area’ exempted from an environmental assessment under national legislation — Incorrect assessment of the qualitative condition of ‘inner city development’ — No effect on the legal validity of the building plan — Effectiveness of the directive undermined (Case C‑463/11).
  19. Court of Justice of the European Union, 2013, Judgment of the Court (Second Chamber), 18 July 2013. Deutsche Umwelthilfe eV v Bundesrepublik Deutschland Request for a preliminary ruling from the Verwaltungsgericht Berlin Public access to environmental information — Directive 2003/4/EC — Power of the Member States to exclude bodies acting in a legislative capacity from the definition of ‘public authority’ under that directive — Limits Case (C‑515/11).
  20. Court of Justice of the European Union, 2013, Judgment of the Court (Second Chamber), 7 November 2013 Gemeinde Altrip and Others v Land Rheinland-Pfalz Request for a preliminary ruling from the Bundesverwaltungsgericht Reference for a preliminary ruling — Environment — Directive 85/337/EEC — Environmental impact assessment — Århus Convention — Directive 2003/35/EC — Right to challenge a development consent decision — Temporal application — Development consent procedure initiated before the period prescribed for transposing Directive 2003/35/EC expired — Decision taken after that date — Conditions of admissibility of the action — Impairment of a right — Nature of the procedural defect that may be invoked — Scope of the review (Case C‑72/12).
  21. Court of Justice of the European Union, 2015, Judgment of the Court (Grand Chamber) of 1 July 2015. Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland e.V. v Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Request for a preliminary ruling from the Bundesverwaltungsgericht. Reference for a preliminary ruling — Environment — EU action in the field of water policy — Directive 2000/60/EC — Article 4(1) — Environmental objectives relating to surface waters — Deterioration of the status of a body of surface water — Project for the development of a navigable waterway — Obligation of the Member States not to authorise a project that may cause a deterioration of the status of a body of surface water — Decisive criteria for determining whether there is a deterioration of the status of a body of water (Case C-461/13).
  22. Court of Justice of the European Union, 2016, Judgment of the Court (Third Chamber) of 14 January 2016. Grüne Liga Sachsen eV and Others v Freistaat Sachsen. Request for a preliminary ruling from the Bundesverwaltungsgericht. Reference for a preliminary ruling — Directive 92/43/EEC — Article 6(2) to (4) — Site included in the list of sites of Community importance after a project was authorised but before it began to be carried out — Review of the project after the site was included in that list — Rules governing that review — Consequences of the completion of the project for the choice of alternatives (Case C-399/14).
  23. Court of Justice of the European Union, 2015, Judgment of the Court (Second Chamber) of 15 October 2015 European Commission v Federal Republic of Germany Failure of a Member State to fulfil obligations — Directive 2011/92/EU — Assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment — Article 11 — Directive 2010/75/EU — Industrial emissions (integrated pollution prevention and control) — Article 25 — Access to justice — Non-compliant national procedural rules (Case C-137/14).
  24. Court of Justice of the European Union, 1995, Judgment of the Court of 11 August 1995. Commission of the European Communities v Federal Republic of Germany. Failure to fulfil obligations - Failure by public authorities to apply a directive which has not yet been transposed - Council Directaiave 85/337/EEC - Assessment of the effects of projects on the environment - Großkrotzenburg thermal power station - Consent for the construction of a new block (Case C-431/92).
  25. de Sadeleer/Roller/Dross, Access to Justice in Environmental Matters and the Role of NGOs, (2005) Groningen: Europa Law Publishing.
  26. D. Misonne, Exploring CETA’s Relation to Environmental Law, in: (2016) elni Review, pp. 46-53.
  27. Client Earth et al., Joint analysis of CETA’s Investment Court System (ICS).
  28. A. Flessner, TTIP und das deutsche Grundgesetz.
  29. N. Busse, 2012, Raumschiff Brüssel, in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of 26.11.2012.
  30. M. Bülow, Wir Abnicker – Über Macht und Ohnmacht der Volksvertreter, 2010.