Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

  • European Commission
  • Programmes
  • Resolution (ECSC, EEC, Euratom) on a Community programme of policy and action in relation to the environment and sustainable development, 1993-2000

Previous programme


Successor programme


Official Journal Reference

C 138 of 1993-05-17

Legislative Reference

93/C138/01 of 1993-02-01
To achieve full integration of environmental and other relevant policies through the active participation of all the main actors in society, involving a broadening and deepening of the instruments for control and behavioural change including, in particular, greater use of market forces.


Since 1972 there have been four Community action programmes on the environment. Initially the essential aim of Community environment policy was the control of pollution and of nuisances. Later, awareness concentrated on prevention leading to the integration of environmental requirements into the planning and execution of actions in many economic and social sectors. The fourth action programme (1987-1992) was based on the recognition that the environmental protection policy can contribute to improved economic growth and job creation and that it should be made an essential component of the economic, industrial, agricultural and social policies implemented at Community and national level.

The fifth action programme (1993-2000), adopted on 1 February 1993 (Official Journal No C 138 of 17.5.1993), has as its basis the principles of sustainable development, preventive and precautionary action and shared responsibility as set out in the Declaration of the Heads of State and Government of the Community, 26 June 1990, and in the new Treaty on European Union, which has as a principle objective the promotion of sustainable growth respecting the environment (Article 2) and specifies that the environment policy must aim at a high level of protection and must be integrated into the definition and implementation of other Community policies. The policy is required to contribute to promoting measures at international level to deal with regional or worldwide environmental problems.

The new Treaty on European Union attaches special value to the principle of subsidiarity which will play an important part in ensuring that the objectives, targets and actions of the programme are given full effect by appropriate national, regional and local efforts and initiatives. In accordance with this principle the Community will take action only if and insofar as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States and can therefore, by reason of the scale or effects of proposed action, be better achieved by the Community.

As used in the programme, the word 'sustainable' is intended to reflect a policy and strategy for continued economic and social development without detriment to the environment and the natural resources on the quality of which continued human activity and further developments depend.

The fifth action programme differs from the previous ones in that: it focuses on the agents and activities which deplete natural resources and otherwise damage the environment, rather than wait for problems to emerge; it endeavours to initiate changes in current trends and practices which are detrimental to the environment, so as to provide optimal conditions for socio-economic well-being and growth for the present and future generations; it aims to achieve such changes in society's patterns of behaviour through the optimum involvement of all sectors of society in a spirit of shared responsibility and this responsibility will be shared through a significant broadening of the range of instruments to be applied contemporaneously to the resolution of particular issues and problems. The mix of instruments proposed can be categorized as legislative instruments, market-based instruments, horizontal, supporting instruments and financial support mechanisms whereas previous action programmes have relied almost exclusively on legislative measures. The legislation and controls of previous action programmes have involved government and manufacturing industry but the concept of shared responsibility requires a much more broadly based and active involvement of all economic players including public authorities, public and private enterprise in all its forms, and the general public, both as citizens and consumers.

Five target sectors have been selected for special attention under this programme: industry, energy, transport, agriculture and tourism. These are sectors where the Community as such has a unique role to play and where a Community approach is the most efficient level at which to tackle the problems these sectors cause or face. They are also chosen because of the particularly significant impacts that they have or could have on the environment as a whole and because, by their nature, they have crucial roles to play in the attempt to achieve sustainable development.

For each of the main issues, long-term objectives are given as an indication of the sense of direction or thrust to be applied in the pursuit of sustainable development, certain performance targets are indicated for the period up to the year 2000 and a representative selection of actions is prescribed with a view to achieving the said targets.

The implementation of a strategy of sustainable development will require a considerable change in almost all major policy areas in which the Community is involved. It requires that environmental protection requirements be integrated into the definition and implementation of other Community policies, not just for the sake of the environment, but also for the sake of the continued efficiency of the other policy areas themselves. The guiding principles for policy decisions under this programme include effective implementation of the 'Polluter Pays Principle'.

The programme can be divided into internal and external actions, the former reflecting what can politically and legally be done within the Community itself in accordance with the powers and procedures incorporated in the Treaties, and the latter reflecting what the Community and its constituent Member States can contribute or achieve in partnership with other developed and developing countries in relation to global or regional issues and problems.

In order to change patterns of consumption and behaviour in society it is necessary to strike a new balance between the perceived short term benefits of individuals or bodies and the long term benefit of society as a whole. To this end, the following horizontal measures, complementary to the regulatory approach, are accorded priority: improvement of data; getting the prices right; information, education and training of all economic actors; full integration of environment and other policies; and strict implementation and enforcement. Priority is accorded to the following fields of action: sustainable management of natural resources; integrated pollution control; prevention and management of waste; reduction in the consumption of non-renewable energy; more efficient management of mobility; improvement of the urban environment; and improvement of health and safety.

The role of the European Environment Agency is seen as crucial in relation to the evaluation and dissemination of information, distinction between real and perceived risks and provision of a scientific and rational basis for decisions and actions affecting the environment and natural resources.

A substantially increased and more coherent research and development effort is required in order to address the more far-sighted, cohesive and effective strategy contained in the programme. The relationships and linkages between environmental policy and supporting research and development must be substantially strengthened with improved information flow and feedback and more adaptability enabling a direct and flexible response to changing policy requirements. Research and development must provide direct support for the following objectives:
. Provision of a scientific basis for evaluating state of the environment and improved early warning of environmental problems;
. Improved understanding of basic environmental processes and the impacts of human activities;
. Development of a sound basis for regulatory and market related instruments;
. Development and application of techniques for prevention, reduction and mitigation of environmental impact.



- Climate change

- Acidification

- Air quality

- Protection of nature and bio-diversity

- Water quantity (groundwater and surface fresh water)

- Water quality (groundwater and surface water)

- Noise

- Coastal zones

- Municipal waste


- Industry-related risks

- Chemicals controls

- Protection of animals used for experimental purposes:
. Directive 86/609/EEC (ongoing);

- Nuclear safety and radiation protection

- Civil protection and environmental emergencies:
. Improvement and refinement of mutual assistance procedures and arrangements in respect of both natural and technological catastrophies, including accidental pollution;
. Improved coordination of the efforts of the Member States within the Community and increased cooperation with pertinent international organizations for optimization of interventions in the case of emergencies and catastrophies in third countries;
. Development and improvement of the information network and operational procedures;
. Public awareness and education;


- Improvement of environmental data

- Scientific research and technological development

- The economic approach: getting the prices right:
. Preliminary guidelines linked to 'Improvement of Data' (1993, 1995);
. 'Shadow' GNP tables showing natural resource values (1995-);
. Formal GNP tables (1999-);
. Development and implementation of a coherent programme internalizing external costs (1992-);
. Consultations with professional organizations (1992);
. Community guidelines (1993);
. Parallel accounts in companies (2000-);
. Consultation with Member States, industry and professional organizations (1992/1993);
. EC Directive (1994);
. Promotion of fiscal incentives for environment (1993);
. Review of national and local levies and charges, collation of data (1993);
. Comprehensive review of State Aids in environment field (1992/1993);
. Directive on Eco-audits (1992);
.Eco-audits (1994);
. Consultations with Member States, industry and insurance institutions (1992/1993);
. Initiation of scheme of performance bonds in respect of covenants and license conditions (1995);
. Directive on civil liability for damage caused by waste (1993-);
. Discussion document on civil liability and joint responsibility systems (1992);
. Adoption of EC regulation (1995);
. Progressive implementation of deposit and refund systems (ongoing);
. Reports on progress and effectiveness of deposit and refund systems (1995/1998);

- Public information and education:
. Public access to environment information (1993);
. Regular state-of-environment reports (1995-);
. Specific information campaigns on waste, energy consumption, transport, etc. (1992-);
. Ecological labelling (1993-);
. Integrated Environmental/Consumer Safety label (1998);
. Report on current situation of integrated environment in all primary and secondary school curricula and proposal on developments (1992);
. Programme of pedagogic research (1992/1993);
. Adoption of general guidelines (1993);
. Preparation of books and teaching aids (ongoing);
. Training of teachers (1993-);
. Integration into school curricula (2000);
. Programme of seminars, summer schools, colloques (1993-);
. Annual update of progress (1993-);

- Professional education and training:
. Report on current situation for all sectors (1992);
. Incorporation of environment studies (1993-);
. Incorporation of environment faculties (1993-);
. Pedagogic research, preparation of books and teaching aids (1992-);
. Coordination among professional institutes, development of guidelines and procedures on professional training courses, seminars and workshop for planners, accountants, auditors (1992-);
. Coordination among professional institutes, development of guidelines and procedures on ongoing programme of courses and seminars for policy planners, transport managers, agricultural advisers, tourism operators (1992-);

- Financial support mechanisms:
. Take account of environmental impact in disbursement of structural funds (1993-);
. Progressive reorientation price to income supports (1992-);
. Land management contracts (1992-);
. Rural Development Programme (progressive);
. Forest Development Programme (progressive);
. Initiation of LIFE (1992);
. Comprehensive review of LIFE and extension as appropriate (1995);
. Special boost in the New Cohesion Fund for air, waste water, waste treatment, etc. (1993-1998);
. Comprehensive survey of difficulties and needs of SMEs (1992/1993);
. Comprehensive review of State Aids in environment field (1993);


- Global issues:
. Climate change;
. Ozone layer depletion;
. Biodiversity loss;
. Deforestation;

- Problems of regional or local concern:
. OECD countries;
. Central and Eastern Europe;
. Developing countries;

- International cooperation;

- Bilateral cooperation.


The Commission is responsible for the implementation of the programme. Three ad hoc dialogue groups will be convened by the Commission: a general consultative forum; an implementation network; and an environment policy review group. These groups will serve to promote a greater sense of responsibility among the principal actors in the partenariat and to ensure effective and transparent application of measures. The consultative forum will provide for consultation and information exchange between the industrial and production sectors, the business world, regional and local authorities, professional associations, trade unions,environmental and consumer organizations and relevant Directorates-General of the Commission. This forum will act as an umbrella organization, with specialist subgroups set up as necessary to deal with specific topics and issues. The implementation network will be comprised of representatives of relevant national authorities and of the Commission in the field of practical implementation of Community measures. It will be aimed primarily at exchange of information and experience and at the development of common approaches at practical level, under the supervision of the Commission. The network can help to promote consistency in the practical application of Community policy and rules as between the Member States which will involve, inter alia, exchanges of information on technical developments, compliance initiatives and precautionary actions. The environment policy review group will be comprised of representatives of the Commission and the Member States at the Director-General level to develop mutual understanding and exchange of views on environmental policies and measures. One of its essential purposes is to fill the gap resulting from the fact that communications between the Commission and the Member States on environment issues have largely been confined to deliberation of specific proposals within the Council and exchanges in relation to infringement proceedings.

In pursuance of its obligations under the Treaty, as amended by the Single European Act, and under the new Treaty on European Union, the Community's involvement in international environmental action will be stepped up over the period covered by the programme. This involvement includes major issues such as climate change, the ozone layer, conservation of biological diversity, hazardous wastes, and the protection of seas and water courses. Environmental concerns are now being reflected in the bilateral cooperation links established between the Community and its partners all over the world. Environmental cooperation with industrialized countries should be reinforced and extended with priority given to developing and Central and Eastern European countries, in view of thier extremely severe environmental situation.

The Commission will continue to provide reports to the Council, the European Parliament and the general public on the extent and quality of implementation and enforcement throughout the Community. According as the quantity and quality of information is improved, these reports will serve both as a performance indicator and as an incentive mechanism for general improvement of implementation and enforcement.

It is not possible to indicate the potential cost of the programme as a whole to the Member States, the regional and local authorities and the economic actors. The new Treaty requires that the real cost of non-action be taken into account as if it is not decision making will tend to be biased against a sustainably optimal policy response. There should also be a clear understanding that certain aspects of the environment are or can be 'priceless' and thereby not susceptible to normal economic costing mechanisms. In accordance with the Treaty, an analysis of the potential costs and benefits of action and non-action will be undertaken in developing specific formal proposals within the Commission. In developing such proposals every care will be taken as far as possible to avoid the imposition of disproportionate costs and to ensure that the benefits will outweigh the costs over time.

The programme will be reviewed and rolled-over at the end of 1995 when a comprehensive reappraisal of the situation will be undertaken. An up-dated report on the state of the environment and a review of the policy-cum-strategy set out in this programme will be published before the end of 1995.
Follow us on: RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube Managed by the EU Publications Office Top