Published Tuesday, 04 February 2014

Environmental policy in the European Semester: Assessing progress to date  

The European Semester was introduced in 2010 as a mechanism of economic and fiscal policy coordination, bringing together reporting under the Europe 2020 Strategy with reporting under the Stability and Growth Pact. It offers a novel and potentially powerful tool through which to monitor Member States’ progress including on environmental issues and recommends improvements to align national efforts with EU objectives.

This study carried out by IEEP for the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament aims to assess the extent to which environmental issues have been mainstreamed in the European Semester process to date. Overall the study finds limited mainstreaming of environmental issues in the European Semester process to date. While some environmental issues such as environmental tax reform, energy (and electricity) and transport infrastructure, renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy market design, and progress towards GHG emission reduction targets have been covered in the process; other issues such as biodiversity, eco-innovation, air pollution, water and waste management are side-lined or entirely absent.

This narrow focus is perhaps not surprising given the overarching political priorities of recent years. However, the European Semester is a tool to implement the Europe 2020 Strategy which includes climate change and resource efficiency objectives. Thus, there is scope for further ‘greening’ the European Semester to better support environmental objectives through for example wider interpretation of priority areas in the Annual Growth Survey (AGS), more comprehensive and detailed coverage of environmental issues in Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs), a consistent follow-up process, increased ownership and engagement of Member States, a more active role of the European Parliament as well as greater engagement of civil society and other stakeholders.