New Perspectives on Law and Institutions in Europe
Edited by Alain Marciano and Jean-Michel Josselin
Chapter 3: Harmonization of environmental liability legislation in the European Union
Michael Faure and Kristel De Smedt INTRODUCTION In the last decade, the European Union was confronted with cases of severe damage to the environment caused by human activities. The accident in Romania where cyanide caused severe pollution of the Tisza river and the incident, a few years ago, near the Doñana nature reserve in the South of Spain, are only two examples of cases where human activities have resulted in substantial damage to the environment. A growing interest in a harmonized environmental liability regime could therefore be observed at European level. Up to now, the environmental acquis does not provide in European legislation, either by directive or by regulation, for liability for damage caused to the environment. The member states of the European Union have established national environmental liability regimes that cover damage to persons and goods, and they have introduced laws to deal with liability for, and clean-up of, contaminated sites. However, according to the European Commission, these national regimes have not addressed the issue of liability for damage to nature. Damage to the environment has traditionally been seen as a ‘public good’ for which society as a whole should be responsible and bear the costs, rather than the individual perpetrator who actually caused the damage. In February 2000, the European Commission issued the ‘White Paper on Environmental Liability’33. This White Paper outlines the Commission’s view on the key elements of a future environmental liability directive. The proposed regime should not only cover damage to persons and goods...
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