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Environment: Court of Auditors report on Community action

The Court of Auditors Special Report No 3/92 concerning the environment, together with the Commission's replies, is published in the Official Journal. The report sets out the objectives of Community environmental action and the resources available. It discusses the action prog...
The Court of Auditors Special Report No 3/92 concerning the environment, together with the Commission's replies, is published in the Official Journal. The report sets out the objectives of Community environmental action and the resources available. It discusses the action programmes for the environment, the coordination of intervention, environmental impact in Structural Fund initiatives, and project and programme financing. Subsequent chapters deal with the management of appropriations earmarked for the environment, the structurally orientated financial instruments and the environment, and the protection of the quality of the environment.

In conclusion, the Court finds that Community action in this area has developed considerably over recent years. It notes that the environmental Directives constitute the main instrument of preventative Community action and their role is fundamental. However, they are being implemented slowly and there is a gap between the set of rules in force and their actual application, so that it is doubtful that they will be sufficient to produce significant behaviour changes in environmental matters. Hence it is vital that they be backed up by other incentives to reduce pollution.

The objectives of the Structural Funds should be pursued and achieved in compliance with Community environment policy (too great a proportion of Community aid goes towards investments that are little more than cleaning operations, whereas preventative measures aimed at the sources of pollution appear infrequently in the programmes and projects financed by the Community). Further coordination is necessary to avoid dispersion of intervention and ensure that different measures complement each other and are therefore effective. Multiannual programmes should establish concrete and quantifiable objectives, and indicate in a precise way the means needed to achieve them, while greater rigour is needed in defining and choosing projects financed by environmental appropriations. Lastly, more precise knowledge and greater awareness of the environmental cost of activities must be arrived at, with a larger proportion of Community aid directed towards the implementation of the "polluter pays" principle.

The Commission's reply notes that a number of the issues taken up by the Court have been addressed in the preparation of the fifth action programme on the environment. The fourth action programme (1987-1992) is not yet completed and its impact will not be visible for some years to come. Points made in the Report are discussed in detail, with reference to the role of DG XI (the Directorate General for the Environment, Nuclear Safety and Civil Protection) as well as to STEP, EPOCH, MAST, ECLAIR, THERMIE, and the CORINE database, and the incorporation of MEDSPA, ACNAT and ACE into the financial instrument for the environment (LIFE).

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