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You are here: Home / News / Environmental policy integration in Europe - the role of administrations

Environmental policy integration in Europe - the role of administrations

Environmental policy integration (EPI) means including environmental considerations into other policies, with a view to achieving sustainable development. While political commitment to this has received much attention, there has been less focus on support for EPI from administrations.

Environmental policy integration (EPI) means including environmental considerations into other policies, with a view to achieving sustainable development. While political commitment to this has received much attention, there has been less focus on support for EPI from administrations.

A new report from the Agency presents an overview of administrative culture and practices for environmental policy integration in Europe, including the EU-25, the candidate and applicant countries, the EFTA countries and the countries of eastern Europe, Caucasus and central Asia. The report builds on EEA's recent state of play review on environmental integration in Europe.

To be effective, EPI has to be developed and implemented as a long term and continuous process. This underlines the importance of changing administrative cultures in order to institutionalise EPI and protect it from sudden change. Administrations ensure that policy goals continue to be respected, long after politicians have moved to other issues.

The general picture that emerges from this review is one of a small but growing body of practice in getting commitments to EPI reflected in administrations. Various mechanisms are being employed in these efforts. Use of EPI mechanisms is highest in a small group of EU and EFTA countries, notably the Anglo-Saxon, Nordic (including the Netherlands) and German-speaking countries. Within this group, the UK, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands stand out as having made special efforts to imbed EPI in their administrations.

The EEA's evaluation uses four questions to evaluate to what extent administrations reflect environmental policy integration in their daily work.

- Do regular planning, budgetary and audit exercises reflect EPI priorities?

In the Netherlands, Norway and the UK, attempts are made to use budgetary, planning and audit processes to support EPI. However even these countries have difficulties making it work.

The greatest scope for making strategic processes work for EPI is in countries that emphasise strategic management initiatives, including new public management. Here, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK are amongst the frontrunners.

Little has been made of the potential to use auditing systems to evaluate progress in relation to EPI. The UK is an exception, going even further by extending beyond a purely financial remit.

- Are environmental responsibilities reflected in the administration's internal management regime?

There is no evidence that EPI is included systematically within management systems. EMAS and similar systems could have a positive effect here.

Countries do not seem to allocate responsibility for EPI in all departments and at all levels, though this is important for promoting EPI in administrations. Development of strategic bodies has, however, led to more senior persons being involved.

Some restructuring has been done, with environment units now found in several countries' sectoral ministries. All countries have environment ministries, though in some countries these ministries also have other roles. It is hard to say if such models promote EPI.

Programmes to build up capacity to cope with EPI are rare. Some countries have earmarked money for sector integration activities, but funding does not keep pace with new demands. Overall figures for investment in EPI have not been assessed.

- Is there a strategic department/unit to guide and support EPI?

Some countries, notably in the EU-15 and EFTA, have established new bodies to ensure that EPI is promoted at a strategic level, although these bodies are frequently dealing more with sustainable development strategies than EPI. Senior politicians are not always involved in these bodies on a continuous basis, and the bodies also seem to play a relatively passive role. A large number of advisory councils have also been created. Not all EU countries have strategic or advisory bodies, however, nor are there equivalents at the EU level.

- Are there mechanisms to ensure environment/sector coordination and communication, i.e. between departments and between levels of governance?

EPI communication and coordination mechanisms are rather widespread, and some countries have permanent networks to aid communication.

Coordination and communication between levels of governance is a challenge, particularly the downwards communication and coordination in federal countries. Communication can be easier where the environment ministry has a decentralised structure.

Technical report 5/2005: Environmental policy integration in Europe - Administrative culture and practices

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