Environmental Objectives and Policy

Historical development

One of the important announcements of the 1972 Paris Meeting of Heads of State and Government was that economic development does not constitute an end in itself, but should serve to improve quality of life.[1]

Especially during the 1980s, there was serious concern for the environment within the Community. The European Council underlined in its 1983 Stuttgart Meeting the status of environmental protection as an independent and significant objective of the Community.

At its 1985 meeting in Brussels, the European Council announced that it would make environmental protection policy an important aspect of its industrial, agricultural, social, and economic policies. This announcement found expression in changes in the EEC Treaty that were introduced through the Single European Act in 1987.

The Single European Act added several new fields to the list of areas in which the Community has competence to legislate. Among others is Title VII on ‘Environment’, consisting of Articles 130r, 130s, and 130t (now Articles 191-193 TFEU) of the EEC Treaty.

The Community environmental objectives were formulated precisely in Article 130r (1), announcing that the Community’s environmental measures shall have the following objectives:

  • • to conserve, protect and improve the quality of the environment;
  • • to contribute towards protecting human health;
  • • to ensure prudent and rational utilization of natural resources.

Article 130r (1) was reformulated through the Treaty of Maastricht and was renamed Article 174. A new objective was added, namely to promote ‘measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems’. In addition to these objectives, the preamble to the Treaty of Maastricht contained the general objective of promoting economic and social development within the framework of realisation of the internal market and of strengthened cohesion as well as environmental protection. It also brought a major change in decision-making rules, which enabled legislative measures for the implementation of environmental objectives (ie environment-related measures) in the majority of cases to be adopted with a qualified majority of the Council instead of unanimity.

Through the Treaty of Amsterdam, the general objective in the preamble to the EC Treaty was reformulated to underline the Member States’ determination to promote economic and social progress for their peoples, ‘taking into account the principle of sustainable development and within the context of the accomplishment of the internal market and of reinforced cohesion and environmental protection’.[2]

Environmental objectives remained largely unchanged when the Treaty of Lisbon was adopted. The only change was the addition of ‘in particular combating climate change’ at the end of the fourth objective about measures at international level. Not that other issues at international level should be given lower priority than in the past: the Union has now comprehensive and legally institutionalised engagement in many environmental questions that extend beyond its borders. Note, rather, that the question of climate change has been taken up as one of particular significance because of its great implications for other policy areas and other environmental issues, as well as its far-reaching effects on society.

  • [1] Declaration of the First Summit Conference of the Enlarged Community, Bull EC V- 10, para 3.
  • [2] The Treaty of Amsterdam, Part One, Art 1 (2).
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