Objectives, Principles, and Resources


Protection of the environment was not mentioned in the 1957 Treaty of Rome. This is not surprising since environmental protection had not yet become an important issue on the political agenda at that time. Even at national level, few laws specifically addressed protection of the environment. However, during the 1960s, concern for the condition of the environment grew within the then EEC as well as in other industrialised countries. In July 1971, when the first UN Conference on Human Environment (the Stockholm Conference) was being organised, the Commission stated that it was necessary to draw up guidelines for a Community environmental action programme.1 At the Stockholm Conference in June 1972, the participating EC countries (still the original six) could not get support for their demand for more stringent international environmental measures. Disappointed at the meagre results of the Conference, the EC Heads of State and Government met in Paris in October 1972. The meeting declared that economic expansion was not an end in itself, but should result in an increased standard of living and quality of life. Special attention should be given to non-material values such as protection of the environment.2 It was also decided that a Community-level programme for the protection of the environment should be drawn up. The Community’s First Environment Action Programme was adopted in 1973. Since then, six more such programmes have come into being.3

The first five action programmes (together covering the period 1973—2000) were adopted in the form of a declaration (first programme) or a resolution (second to

1 First communication of the Commission about the Community’s policy on the environment (22

July 1971) SEC (71) 2616 final.

  • 2 Bull EC V—1972, 10. Today’s increased understanding of the significance of environmental factors in a society’s economy makes general reference to the environment as a non-economic factor surprising. The statement of the Paris Meeting should be understood in the light of the knowledge and values that influenced the view on the relation between society and the environment at that time.
  • 3 The First Environment Action Programme for the period 1973—1976, OJ [1973] C 112/55, 1; Second Environment Action Programme for the period 1977—1981, OJ [1977] C 139/1; Third Environment Action Programme for the period 1982—1986, OJ [1983] C 46/1; Fourth Environment Action Programme for the period 1987—1992, OJ [1987] C 328/1; Fifth Environment Action Programme for the period 1993—2000, OJ [1993] C 138/1; Sixth Environment Action Programme for the period 2002—2012, OJ [2002] L 242/1; Seventh Environment Action Programme for the period 2014-2020, OJ [2013] L 354/171.

EU Environmental Law and Policy. David Langlet and Said Mahmoudi. © David Langlet and Said Mahmoudi 2016. Published 2016 by Oxford University Press.

fifth programmes) by both the Council and the Member States. The reason was that the Community up to 1987 (ie the period covered by the first four action programmes) lacked explicit competence to adopt action programmes in the field of environmental protection. Moreover, it was assumed that the programmes would be implemented by the Community as well as by the Member States, depending on the measures. Following an amendment introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht, action programmes are now decided by the Council and the European Parliament (EP) in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure.4 Thus, compared with the earlier period, these programmes have a different character as a source of law.

It was maintained earlier that one effect of the action programmes was to clarify the then Community’s legal capacity to legislate within areas and for purposes set out in the programmes. This is even clearer with the present decision-making procedure according to Article 192 TFEU. This is particularly significant with respect to the subsidiarity principle, according to which the EU can legislate or adopt other measures within an area only if the purpose of the planned measure cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States themselves.5

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