Environmental assessment is a procedure that ensures that the environmental implications of decisions are taken into account before the decisions are made. Environmental assessment can be undertaken for individual projects, such as a wind factory, dam, motorway, airport or factory, on the basis of Directive 2011/92/EU (known as ‘Environmental Impact Assessment’ – EIA Directive) or for public plans or programmes on the basis of Directive 2001/42/EC (known as ‘Strategic Environmental Assessment’ – SEA Directive). The common principle of both Directives is to ensure that plans, programmes and projects likely to have significant effects on the environment are made subject to an environmental assessment, prior to their approval or authorisation. Consultation with the public is a key feature of environmental assessment procedures.
The Directives on Environmental Assessment aim to provide a high level of protection of the environment and to contribute to the integration of environmental considerations into the preparation of projects, plans and programmes with a view to reduce their environmental impact. They ensure public participation in decision-making and thereby strengthen the quality of decisions. The projects and programmes co-financed by the EU (Cohesion, Agricultural and Fisheries Policies) have to comply with the EIA and SEA Directives to receive approval for financial assistance. Hence the Directives on Environmental Assessment are crucial tools for sustainable development.