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Environmental assessments

Evaluating the effects of plans and programmes on the environment


EU rules ensure that Member States should assess the likely significant environmental effect of certain large infrastructure projects, public plans and programmes.

Environmental assessments can be undertaken for individual projects, such as a dam, motorway, airport or factory (under the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive) or for public plans or programmes (under the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive).

Both Directives ensure that an environmental assessment takes place before plans, programmes and projects are approved or authorised. Public participation in decision-making is a key aspect of both Directives.

Specific policies

International commitments

Espoo Convention and SEA Protocol

The Espoo Convention aims to ensure that its parties assess the environmental impact of certain activities at an early stage of planning. Parties should also notify and consult each other on the activities listed in the convention that are likely to have a significant adverse transboundary (cross-border) impact.

The SEA Protocol aims to promote sustainable development by identifying environmental consequences early in the decision-making process of its parties, and to ensure that the environmental considerations are integrated into said process.

Find out more about the Espoo Convention and the SEA Protocol

Aarhus Convention

The UN Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters (Aarhus) protects every person’s right to a healthy environment. It grants the public rights and imposes obligations on Parties and public authorities on access to information and public participation and access to justice. 


For questions about EU environmental policy, please contact Europe Direct.