The REC provides legal expertise and technical assistance for the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental legislation at national, European and international levels. We also support the development of local environmental policies, guided by the principles of good governance using participatory planning and decision making based on consensus, thus ensuring the transparency and accountability of local governments.
Following a long-term commitment to environmental law reform in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and South Eastern Europe (SEE), the REC is facilitating the EU accession and association processes by supporting the transposition and implementation of the EU environmental acquis, promoting accession to multilateral environmental agreements, and strengthening regional cooperation and networking. Particular emphasis is given to improving the effectiveness of enforcement agencies in relation to compliance with environmental legislation and the fight against environmental crimes.
The analysis of various areas of environmental policy, with a particular focus on the role of financial instruments and the integration of environmental issues into EU Structural Funds at the level of programming and project implementation, is an important and widely recognised aspect of the REC’s work. The REC also contributes to EU-wide policy learning and the capitalisation of practices among regional stakeholders in order to strengthen EU regional policies in the field of environment and resource efficiency.
The REC’s main objectives in this area of expertise are to:
- support the efficient development of comprehensive legislative frameworks in compliance with the EU environmental acquis through the application of a regional strategic approach that encourages dialogue and cooperation, the sharing of outputs and solutions, and the joint implementation of activities;
- support the development of local environmental policies in line with EU standards and sustainable development principles;
- support the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements;
- increase the effectiveness of enforcement agencies, inspectorates, the judiciary, police and other relevant bodies in relation to compliance with environmental legislation;
- improve the exchange of experience and knowledge with EU member states through stronger cooperation with enforcement networks, as well as through training and exchange programmes;
- strengthen regional and international networking among environmental inspectors, permit writers, judges, prosecutors and police by creating and maintaining regional networks for combating specific crimes in the environmental field;
- support the better integration of environmental concerns into EU Structural and Cohesion Funds, regional policy instruments, development programmes, and the financial instruments of international financial institutions;
- contribute to policy and sectoral discussions on aspects of green economy, especially the role of financial instruments, but also the greening of sectors such as water and waste;
- further support strategic environmental investment planning in SEE and opening up to Eastern Partnership countries;
- provide advice and support to EU regional policy makers, in particular in relation to programmes for investments for growth and jobs;
- provide assistance to educational policy reform through education for sustainable development; and
- support the implementation of the South East Europe 2020 Strategy by facilitating smart, sustainable and inclusive growth through high-quality education.
The REC works in cooperation with environmental decision makers (such as ministries, national and regional environmental authorities, and agencies responsible for both the development and enforcement of legislation), the judiciary, financial institutions, infrastructure project proponents, the European Commission, and international organisations and institutions.
Specific activities include:
- assisting in the transposition and implementation of the EU environmental acquis by progress monitoring and compliance checking;
- assisting in the practical enforcement of and compliance with environmental legislation by building the capacities of enforcement agencies (inspectorates, police, customs, forest guards etc.), developing guidebooks and training materials, and raising the awareness of judges and prosecutors;
- drafting technical assessments within the infringement process, and analysing the conformity of EU member states’ national measures with certain directives in the environmental sector;
- carrying out legal analyses and developing capacity-building and legal governance tools, including principles, voluntary codes and instruments on issues of regional importance;
- supporting the secretariats of various conventions to promote accession to multilateral environmental agreements;
- assisting in the design of national and regional action plans for the combating of environmental crime (such as illegal logging) and disaster risk reduction (such as forest fires);
- assisting in the development of local environmental action plans;
- facilitating good governance, confidence building, networking and cooperation in environmental law through partnerships and informal regional networks;
- assisting EU regions to green different sectors of their economies;
- analysing the green economy implications of different EU policies;
- assisting in strategic environmental investment planning, including the identification and prioritisation of environmental infrastructure investment projects, and in the formulation of investment projects at national and municipal levels;
- promoting the integration of environment into EU funds, as well as national and regional development funds, at the level of programming, project selection and monitoring;
- providing EU regional policy makers with the tools and information to improve the performance of regional development programmes and tools;
- working together with national institutions to adapt and amend educational curricula in line with sustainable development values, skills and principles, and with ongoing European strategies for educational reform; and
- providing assistance in the development of quality assurance mechanisms.