In accordance with EU primary law, the objectives of EU environmental policy are as follows:
- preserving, protecting and improving the quality of the environment
- protecting human health
- prudent and rational utilisation of natural resources
- promoting measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems, and in particular to combating climate change
To achieve these goals, the area of environment falls within the shared competence of the EU and its Member States, meaning that both the European Commission and Member States are entitled to adopt binding acts pertaining to environmental policy. However, Member States are authorised to do so only if the Union decides not to exercise its competence. Therefore, Member countries are still competent to legislate but national law cannot contradict European law. Based on the principle of subsidiary, the Commission is competent to intervene and legislate only if an agreed objective is attainable more effectively at EU level that at the level of Member States. As a result, since 2004 when Slovakia joined the EU, the majority of its environmental laws have originated from the transposition of EU legislation into our national legal system.
The EU environmental and climate change policies are primarily shaped by four out of seven principal EU institutions:
- The European Council: Composed of the heads of Member States or their governments, it’s permanent President and the Commission President determines the EU´s general political direction and priorities. However, it is not authorised to adopt laws.
- The Commission: Representing the Union´s interest is the only EU institution entitled to propose laws within the general political guidelines set by the European Council. It is also responsible for ensuring that EU law is thoroughly implemented by Member States. Environmental policy falls within the remit of the Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, K. Vella (2014-2019), whereas legislative proposals and other non-legislative actions in the environmental field are drawn up by the Directorate-General for the Environment (DG ENVI). Responsibility for putting forward climate change policies resides with the Commissioner for Climate Change and Energy, M. A. Canete (2014-2019), who is also in political charge of the Directorate-General for Climate Action(DG CLIMA).
- The Environment Council: Comprised of Member States ministers responsible for environmental and climate change issues. They promote their own national interests by adopting EU laws (together with the European Parliament under ordinary legislative procedure) or by approving other non-legislative activities. The Environment Council convenes four times a year and reaches its decisions by a qualified majority vote most of the time even though in practice it strives to reach consensus. The Council´s work is organised at three levels:
- Working parties – environmental and climate change issues are covered by two working parties: the Working Party on the Environment (focused on various aspects of the EU environmental policy) and the Working Party on International Environment Issues (preparing EU positions for international environmental negotiations). At this level, Slovakia, as well as other Member States, is represented either by experts from the Permanent Representation to the EU or from the Ministry of Environment depending on the issue discussed.
- The Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER) – environmental policy falls under the responsibility of COREPER I gathering deputy permanent representatives. Slovakia is here represented by A. Micovčin, the Slovak Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU.
- The highest ministerial level – it decides on matters in cases where agreement is not reached at lower levels.
- The European Parliament: Representing EU citizens, it adopts EU environmental laws together with the Council of the EU under ordinary legislative procedure. Environmental issues fall under the responsibility of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.
Last update 15/10/2018