Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

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Official Journal Reference

L 120 of 1990-05-11

Legislative Reference

1210/90 of 1990-05-07
To protect, process and analyze environmental data at European level in order to provide objective, reliable and comparative information to enable the Community and the Member States to take the requisite measures to protect the environment, to asses the results of such measures and to ensure that the public is properly informed about the state of the environment.


The European Environment Agency (EEA) was officially created in May 1990 but only became operational in early 1994 following the decision to locate its headquarters in Copenhagen (Official Journal No C 323 of 30.11.1995).

The purpose of the EEA, and the European environment information and observation network which it coordinates, is to provide the Community and the Member States with objective, reliable and comparable information to enable them to take the measures necessary to protect the environment, as well as to be able to assess the results of these measures. To achieve these goals, the EEA also provides scientific and technical support to the Community and the Member States.

Its principle activities cover all areas of work necessary to enable the EEA to describe the present and foreseeable state of the environment from the point of view of:

- The quality of the environment;
- The pressures on the environment;
- The sensitivity of the environment.

In supplying information which may be used directly in the implementation of environmental policy, the EEA, in its first years, is to give priority to the following areas:

- Air quality and atmospheric emissions;
- Water quality, pollutants and water resources;
- The state of the soil, of the fauna and flora, and of biotopes;
- Land uses and natural resources;
- Waste management;
- Noise emissions;
- Chemical substances which are hazardous for the environment;
- Coastal protection.
Special consideration is given to transfrontier, pluriannual and global phenomena. The socio-economic dimension must also be taken into account.
The CORINE system of databases, which was established in 1985 under the CORINE programme, is incorporated into the activities of the EEA. The purpose of the CORINE programme was to collect, coordinate and ensure the consistency of environmental data in the European Union.


Ten Tasks:

- To establish and coordinate (in cooperation with the Member States) the European environment and observation network. In this context, the Agency is responsible for the collection, processing and analysis of data and for continuing the work started under the CORINE programme;

- To provide the Community and the Member States with the objective information necessary for framing and implementing sound and effective environmental policies and, in particular, to provide the Commission with the information that it needs to successfully carry out its tasks of identifying, preparing and evaluating measures and legislation in the field of the environment;

- To record, collate and assess data on the state of the environment, to draw up expert reports on the quality, sensitivity and pressures on the environment within the territory of the Community, and to provide uniform assessment criteria for environmental data to be applied in all Member States. The Commission uses this information in its task of ensuring the implementation of Community legislation on the environment;

- To help ensure that environmental data at European level is comparable and, if necessary, to encourage by appropriate means improved harmonization of measurement methods;

- To promote the incorporation of European environmental information into international environment monitoring programmes, such as those established by the United Nations and its specialized agencies;

- To ensure the broad dissemination of reliable environmental information. In addition, the Agency is required to publish a report on the state of the environment every three years;

- To stimulate the development and application of environmental forecasting techniques so that adequate prevention measures can be taken in good time;

- To stimulate the development of methods of assessing the cost of damage to the environment and the costs of environmental preventive, protection and restoration policies;

- To stimulate the exchange of information on the best technologies available for preventing or reducing damage to the environment;

- To cooperate with other Community bodies and programmes, notably the Joint Research centre (JRC), the Statistical Office and the Community's environmental research and development programmes, and with relevant international bodies.


The activities of the European Environment Agency are overseen by a management board, consisting of one representative from each Member State and two representatives of the Commission. In addition, the European Parliament designates, as members of the management board, two scientific personalities particularly qualified in the field of environmental protection. A chairman is elected from among the members every three years. Decisions of the management board are adopted by two-thirds majority, with each member having one vote.

The Agency is headed by an Executive Director who is appointed by the management board, on a proposal from the Commission, for a period of five years. This mandate may be renewed. The Director is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the Agency, including the preparation and execution of the decisions and programmes adopted by the management board, the preparation of the Agency's multiannual and annual work programmes, the implementation of the Agency's budget and the preparation of annual reports.

Both the management board and the Executive Director are assisted by a scientific committee, consisting of nine members with expertise in the field of the environment who are designated by the management board. Each member of the scientific committee is nominated for a term of four years renewable once.

The management board is responsible for adopting multiannual work programmes based on the EEA's priority areas. Multiannual work programmes are based on a draft submitted by the Executive Director which incorporates the opinion of the Scientific Committee and the Commission. Within the framework of the multiannual work programme, the management board adopts the Agency's annual work programme. This may be adjusted during the course of the year.

A European environment information and observation network, incorporating the main component elements of the national information networks, national focal points and topic centres, is coordinated by the European Environment Agency. Topic centres consist of institutions or other organizations identified by the Member States which could be specifically entrusted with the task of cooperating with the Agency in certain issues of particular interest. The management board is responsible for designating topic centres for a period not exceeding the duration of each multiannual work programme. The work programme details the allocation of specific tasks to the selected topic centres.

The EEA is required to periodically examine the component elements of the network and to implement any changes decided upon by the management board, taking account of any new designations made by the Member States.

In carrying out its activities, the EEA is required to actively seek the cooperation of other Community bodies and programmes, and notably the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the Statistical Office and the Community's environmental research and development programmes (in particular the specific RTD programme in the field of environment and climate under the Fourth Framework Programme).

Cooperation with the JRC covers the following tasks:

- Harmonization of environmental measurement methods;
- Intercalibration of instruments;
- Standardization of data formats;
- Development of new environmental measurement methods and instruments;
- Other tasks as agreed between the Executive Director of the Agency and the Director-General of the JRC.

Coordination with Eurostat and the Statistical Programme of the European Communities follows the following guidelines:

- Full use is to be made of the statistical information system established by Eurostat and the national statistical services in the Member States;
- The statistical programme in the field of the environment will be agreed between the Executive Director of the Agency and the Director-General of Eurostat and will be submitted for approval to the management board of the Agency and the Statistical Programme Committee;
- The statistical programme is to be conceived and implemented within the framework established by the international statistical bodies, such as the UN Statistical Commission, the Conference of European Statisticians and the OECD.

The Council is required, within two years of the inauguration of the EEA, to decide on further tasks for the Agency incorporating, in particular, the following areas:

- Involvement in the monitoring of the implementation of Community environmental legislation, in cooperation with the Commission and existing competent bodies in the Member States;
- Preparing environmental labels and criteria for the award of such labels to environmentally friendly products, technologies, goods, services and programmes which do not waste natural resources;
- Promoting environmentally friendly technologies and processes and their use and transfer within the Community and in third countries;
- Establishing criteria for assessing the impact on the environment with a view to application and possible revision of Directive 85/337/EEC (Council Directive of 27 June 1985 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment).

The Agency is open to countries which are not members of the European Union but which share the concern of the Union and its Member States for the objectives of the Agency. Involvement by third countries in the activities of the Agency is governed by the agreements concluded between them and the Community, following the procedure set out in the Treaty.

Environmental data supplied to, or emanating from, the Agency can be published and is to be made accessible to the public, subject to compliance with the rules of the Commission and the Member States on the dissemination of information, particularly as regards confidentiality.
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