The European Environment Agency is committed to providing efficient information at the European level to assist policy makers and to better inform the public about the environment. This means that the Agency should produce reliable and objective reports about the present state of the environment, the effectiveness of current environmental policies and new policy instruments to tackle emerging and continuing environmental problems.

The results of the pan-European state of the environment report, Europe's Environment: The Dobris Assessment, soon to be published by the European Environment Agency, provides a rigorous basis for understanding the state of the environment. However no similar study exists assessing the status of actions being taken to protect the environment.

The Dobris Assessment highlights 12 prominent European environmental problems. Each problem is at a different stage of recognition, and each is being tackled to varying degrees at various levels by a variety of policy instruments. Although the main strategies and options for action concerning these problems are discussed and summarised in the report, a full appraisal of them was beyond the scope of that assessment.

The decisions about how environmental problems are dealt with is a socio-political matter. Sustainable development has become a central guiding principle for this, but opinions differ as to how this is interpreted and how to make it operational - how can we produce and consume sustainably, and what instruments are needed for this? The current effectiveness of environmental policies and the direction in which these policies should develop are all questions which require answering.

Objective answers are difficult to find to these questions and for this reason the European Environment Agency has begun to invite experts to air their views on these subjects and share their opinions. To open the way for these discussion papers, we requested the Institute for European Environmental Policy, London, to prepare the current report as a first preliminary exercise to assess the current situation concerning actions being taken to protect the environment in Europe and the first evaluation of these actions. This report is now published here as the first number of our newly established "Experts' Comers" publication series, which we trust will become a regular forum for disseminating expert reports commissioned by the Agency whilst carrying out its work in all its various fields. The Agency is particularly interested in the results of the discussions in order to translate them into specific projects, and to give wide access to the information.

I trust that the information published here together eventually with that from other contributors and more detailed analyses will be able to complement the more classical information on the state of the environment and so more completely fulfil the Agency role to support the policy making decision process.

Domingo Jiménez-Beltrán


Executive Director
European Environment Agency



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