EU Enlargement and Environmental Policy: The Bright Side

FNI Report 14/2006. Lysaker, FNI, 2006, 23 p.

It is commonly expected that as the EU expands to include the Central- and East-European (CEE) countries, its capacity to adopt and implement environmental policy will be negatively affected. The traditional thinking is that the CEE countries will take on the role of laggards, thus slowing down or even reversing progress in environmental policymaking. This report questions the grounds for this reasoning and argues that a less pessimistic view emerges when the analysis considers the following: 1) that business and industry are likely to take a more proactive role; 2) that the CEE countries are unlikely to vote as a bloc on environmental issues because their interests and values vary, and 3) that the flexibility and capacity of EU institutions to adopt and implement environmental policy has increased. This positive picture is further enhanced if we shift the analytical focus from short-term decision making to long-term problem solving because the disadvantages of the anticipated slower decisionmaking may be outweighed by the positive environmental consequences of greater institutional effectiveness achieved by implementing the aquis in the new Member States.