Discussion paper: The future role and organisation
prepared by the Environment Agency on behalf of Department
of the Environment
for the Dublin Plenary Meeting - 21/22 November 1996
The fact that environmental pollution and environmental crime
are trans-boundary in nature means that there needs to be a framework
for cooperation at the local, regional, national, European and
international level to achieve a satisfactory framework for the
implementation and enforcement of legislation to protect the environment.
The EU provides the framework and powers to act jointly at the
European level and IMPEL, if properly managed and resourced, could
have a positive impact on cooperation between regulatory bodies
in the EU.
The debate on the role and organisation of IMPEL has been
under discussion for a number of years and important changes have
taken place to improve the working of IMPEL, for example the establishment
of the IMPEL Secretariat and the participation of the European
An ad hoc reflection task force of 11 countries met
on 4 September 1995 and drafted a report on the future structure
of IMPEL which was tabled at the Madrid Plenary on 24 November
1995. It was agreed at the Plenary that the conclusions of the
report would feed into the Commission's work on its Communication
on the Enforcement and Implementation of EC Law. However, it
was also agreed to be premature to make major changes to the way
IMPEL operates until the Commission had completed its work. In
the interim the creation of the Secretariat became the top priority
to improve the working of the Network and, with the support of
the Netherlands and the European Commission, a small Secretariat
was set up in May 1996.
2. Commission Communication on Implementation and Enforcement
The Commission's Communication on Implementing Community
Environmental Law was adopted on 22 October 1996. It puts
forward three proposals to improve the implementation and enforcement
of EC law, which includes setting minimum guidelines for inspection
With regard to IMPEL, the Communication reviews the work
carried out so far and suggests that IMPEL can play an important
role in improving cooperation in implementation matters between
the Commission and member states, between member states and within
each member state. The last of these could involve the creation
of national coordination networks to be linked with IMPEL which
would have the role of national focal point. The Communication
The Commission will consider the existing position of the
informal IMPEL network as a useful instrument of cooperation and
capacity building, and will make proposals for improving, developing
and reorganising its tasks. It will encourage the creation of
national coordination networks to be linked with IMPEL through
the national coordinators.
3. UK Discussion Paper and Recommendations for Future Action
IMPEL needs to decide on its future structure and organisation
to work effectively. This discussion paper is intended to stimulate
debate and puts forward several proposals to contribute to the
process of IMPEL's restructuring. It considers a number of options
for IMPEL's role, management structure and scope of activities.
It builds on the options of the IMPEL Reflection Task Force as
well as a presentation on IMPEL by Pieter Verkerk, Dutch Inspector
General, at the European Parliament/Commission Joint Hearing on
the Implementation and Enforcement of Law on 30 May which
examined IMPEL and the future for cooperation between competent
authorities in the member states.
It does not, at this stage, consider the proposal to create
national coordination networks to be linked with IMPEL through
the national coordinators.
The ad hoc reflection task force of September 1995
agreed that IMPEL should provide a professional European centre
of expertise on implementation and enforcement, but with a strengthened
organisational structure and resources. It is also important
for IMPEL to produce quality technical reports which enhance its
credibility as a source of expertise and information.
The UK supports this view and proposes that IMPEL should
remain an informal grouping but with a political mandate from
the Council in the form of a Resolution. Moreover, a permanent
Management Board in place of the Plenary Sessions could provide
better, more coherent policy guidance for the work of the Network.
The Dublin Plenary is requested to discuss the UK's proposals
and to draw up a work programme and timetable to carry forward
the restructuring of IMPEL to enable agreement at the Dutch Plenary,
4. Proposed Options for IMPEL's Future Role
In considering its options for the future the UK considers
that IMPEL will wish to be able:
- to build on its success as a forum
for the exchanges between regulators and continue to encourage
cooperation on the practical aspects of enforcement;
- to complement the work of EC technical
committees, dealing with the application of EC legislation;
- to provide published information
to enhance the transparency of EC legislation;
- to help develop greater consistency
in the application and enforcement of EC law;
- to provide expertise to policy-makers
with regard to practicability of EC legislation;
- to be subject to effective direction
and interplay with the EU institutions (and not fall under the
sole management of the Commission).
It also needs to have the necessary resources to operate effectively.
The options to be considered are:
Option I A: Association of Environmental Regulators
Under this option IMPEL would become a self-regulatory professional
association. Task forces would be set up on a project by project
basis to address aspects of the application of EC legislation.
The absence of "politics" in the form of the Commission
and the Council would encourage a greater frankness in discussions
between regulators. On the other hand, given that the majority
of regulatory bodies are government/public bodies a fee-paying
body may cause problems. In reality, however, the Commission
is already involved in the work of IMPEL as join Chair.
Option I B: Formal Commission Advisory Body
This option would establish IMPEL as a formal advisory body
along the lines of the Committee of Senior Labour Inspectors.
This was established by a Commission Decision in 1995 after operating
as an informal group since 1982. The Committee is useful for
making comparative references on health and safety matters and
to peer review practices in other countries. While the European
Commission chairs the meetings and receives informal reports,
the Committee's agenda is directed by the Senior Labour Inspectors.
This option would clearly define IMPEL's terms of reference
as an EC advisory committee and also make it eligible for EC funding
which would be helpful as resources are a major problem. However,
IMPEL would become part of the European Commission advisory network
and lose the ability to work independently and with flexibility.
Option I C: A Consolidated Informal Network with a Political
The Council could set out IMPEL's terms of reference and
priorities, perhaps by means of a resolution. This would have
political rather than legal significance since a resolution would
not be legally binding. IMPEL would remain an informal network,
but a political mandate would give it direction, a strengthened
role in advising on EC policy and implementation and might help
further to secure an adequate secretariat.
5. Proposed IMPEL Structure and Governing Body
The Secretariat is the backbone of the IMPEL Network as it
coordinates the work of IMPEL committees/working groups and provides
support for the production of reports.
Since its establishment in May 1996 the Secretariat, a senior
Dutch inspector supported by a secretary, have made an excellent
start to improve the working of IMPEL. However, the workload
is already significant and there is a need to review staffing
needs. Increased support will become imperative, if IMPEL is
to become the focal point for national coordination networks as
proposed by the European Commission.
5.2 Committee Structure
The ad hoc reflection task force agreed that the current
working groups needed to be restructured to become three standing
committees: one dealing with all legal aspects of implementation
and enforcement, one dealing with technical issues and a third
dealing with the professional development of pollution inspectors.
Each Committee would have the ability to set up small, ad
hoc task groups to consider specific issues.
In the interim it has been suggested that two committees
would be more efficient: one dealing with legal policy and implementation
issues and the other with the practical enforcement and inspection
issues, which would cover raining and joint operational activities
such as tackling environmental crime. Ad hoc committees
with specific tasks would also be created and dissolved when the
task is completed.
5.3 Management Structure
IMPEL is currently managed by the bi-annual meeting of the
Plenary Session which brings together representatives from all
member states and is jointly chaired by the Commission and the
The Plenary Sessions provide a useful overview of IMPEL's
work, but they are failing to guide the Network towards clear
objectives, and there is little continuity between succeeding
meetings. The sessions tend to endorse the proposals of the working
groups as opposed to providing decisive political direction.
A permanent management board with a rotating chair could
provide an alternative to the current Plenary Session. The options
for the composition of the management board are as follows:
Option II A: Report to the Environment Policy Review Group
The EPRG is an informal group of Director-Generals from Environment
Ministries set up under the Fifth Environmental Action Programme
to exchange views with the European Commission. It has no formal
status within the EC and is more a forum for discussing longer
term policy issues than a management body. It does not seem the
obvious choice for an appropriate body to which IMPEL might report.
Option II B: Report to the Council
A Troika (or 5 Presidencies to ensure better continuity),
representing the Council, would reflect a fairly wide range of
interests. Given that a primary aim of IMPEL is to give the European
Commission practical advice on potential implementation problems,
this option is too limited.
Option II C: Report to a Management Board
This option would involve the creation of a management board
made up of a Troika (or 5 Presidencies), one representative from
the European Commission and one from the European Environment
Agency and the Chairmen of IMPEL committees on "Implementation"
This option would integrate IMPEL in the EC policy making
and implementation process, making its role more transparent and
could ensure "added value" to work already undertaken
by other bodies such as the Commission technical committees and
the European Environment Agency. IMPEL should review areas of
cooperation to be developed with the European Environment Agency
to provide the EEA with, for example, information on regulatory
The troika model was adopted for setting IMPEL Dublin Plenary
6. Scope of IMPEL's Activities
So far IMPEL has focused on the authorisation of industrial
installations. Discussions on EC legislation have touched on
the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive,
the Regulation on Eco-Management and Audit and the Environment
Impact Assessment Directive. A separate working group was set
up to cooperate on the implementation of the Trans-frontier Shipment
of Waste Directive. In addition, reports have been prepared,
but not published, on the application of the Municipal Waste Incineration
Directive and the Large Combustion Plants Directive.
IMPEL's current scope is too limited to address properly
practical implementation issues as industrial installations only
form part of EC environmental legislation. However, to broaden
IMPEL's scope to cover all aspects of EC environment legislation
would not be realistic.
It is therefore proposed that IMPEL could address the "cross-cutting"
regulatory aspects of EC environment legislation on the main media
of air, waste and water. Areas to be considered would include
approaches to licensing, monitoring, auditing, and the regulation
of other polluters, for example, sewage treatment works, agriculture,
small and medium sized companies. Cooperation in the monitoring
of waste movements to stop environment crime as currently undertaken
by IMPEL's TFS II working group would also remain part of IMPEL's
scope. IMPEL might also cover environmental impact assessment,
which is linked by some member states and the Commission with
the draft IPPC Directive.
IMPEL would not address chemicals and health-related legislation,
which are dealt with by other agencies or product safety directives
(ie drinking water and pesticides). However, consideration should
be given to linkage with authorities responsible for other aspects
of EC environment policy such as nature protection and conservation.
7. Looking to the Future EU: Central and Eastern Europe
Membership of IMPEL is currently limited to EU member states.
However, IMPEL should consider, within the capabilities of its
financial and physical resources, encouraging the participation
of authorities from Central and Eastern Europe at IMPEL exchange
1 November 1996