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Strategic environmental assessment

Evaluating the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment


The Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive sets out a procedure that must be undertaken when assessing a plan or programme to which the procedure applies.
The steps include the following

  • scoping
  • preparation of the environmental report taking into consideration baseline information and reasonable alternatives
  • public consultation and participation
  • decision-making
  • monitoring


The SEA Directive’s objectives are to provide a high level of protection to the environment and contribute to integrating environmental considerations into the preparation, adoption and implementation of plans and programmes to promote sustainable development. To achieve this, an environmental assessment must be carried out according to the Directive’s provisions for plans and programmes identified as likely to have significant effects on the environment.

The SEA Directive applies to a wide range of public plans and programmes, including

  • land use
  • transport
  • energy
  • waste
  • agriculture

These result in individual projects, including those co-financed by the EU. Applying the Directive should lead to more sustainable and resource-efficient development through systematic appraisal of different options during planning.

To decide whether a plan and programme falls under the scope of the SEA Directive, the following four criteria should all be met

  • be subject to preparation and/or adoption by an authority at national, regional or local level
  • required by legislative, regulatory or administrative provisions
  • prepared by any of the sectors listed in Article 3(2)(a) of the Directive
  • sets the framework for future development consent of projects listed in Annex I and II to the EIA Directive

More detailed information about the SEA Directive

Assessing if the SEA Directive is fit for purpose


The Commission’s Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT) aims to make EU laws simpler, more targeted and easier to comply with. It does so by evaluating and improving existing laws. REFIT evaluated the SEA Directive to ensure that it is  suited for its intended purpose. Evaluations provided an evidence-based analysis on whether EU actions were proportionate to their objectives and delivering as expected. This evaluation examined the extent to which the SEA Directive did what it was meant to do. It looked into what works and what can be improved, what degree the objectives had been achieved and why some elements or features were or were not successful.


The evaluation has shown that the SEA Directive remains fit for purpose, brings multiple benefits to the EU and has clear added value. It contributes to wider aims on realising the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and environmental protection by integrating environmental concerns into the appropriate plans and programmes.

The Directive is coherent with other EU legislation that propose environmental assessments. The benefits it provides do not cause disproportionate costs for the national administrations. Its effectiveness differs between sectors and the types of plans and programmes to which it is applied, but greatly depends on how it is transposed into national law and further implemented in each EU Member State. In addition, the broad scope of application that has been provided for in the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis and against the specific legal order transposing the SEA Directive in the individual Member States. Lastly, its effectiveness and efficiency can be affected by many practical factors, such as the timing of the SEA.

  • The Staff Working document (EN version) is available here.
    Summary in EN, FR and DE.

National summaries

Each national summary provides basic information on the legal, administrative and policy context regarding the SEA system in a Member State. It describes the legal and administrative framework supporting the implementation of the SEA Directive, including the organisational arrangements as well as procedural obligations. The references to the transposing national legislation should be read in conjunction with the national transposition measures that the Member State communicated to the European Commission.