The European Union consists of 28 member states, and covers 4.3 million square kilometres of territory, and has a population of 508 million.
It has these supranational institutions: European Parliament, European Council, Council of the European Union, European Commission, Court of Justice of the European Union, European Central Bank, and Court of Auditors.
Although the initial treaty of the European Union had no specific environmental policy, it has since accumulated over 500 Directives, Regulations and Decisions. Environment has been a core part of EU policies since the 1987 SEA (Single European Act) created the legal basis for EU environmental policy.
The leadership role in international cooperation for protecting the global environment has been taken up by the European Union. The EU's Seventh Environmental Action Programme and the Lisbon Treaty are strong statements of the EU's commitments to international agreements for equitable management of the global commons.
Seventh Environment Action Programme
The 7th Environment Action Programme (EAP) of the EU is the current plan governing EU environmental policy until 2020.
In the preamble, it states:
'In 2050, we live well, within the planet’s ecological limits. Our prosperity and healthy environment stem from an innovative, circular economy where nothing is wasted and where natural resources are managed sustainably, and biodiversity is protected, valued and restored in ways that enhance our society’s resilience. Our low-carbon growth has long been decoupled from resource use, setting the pace for a safe and sustainable global society.'
General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020: Living well, within the limits of our planet 7th Environment Action Programme.pdf (Courtesy of Publications Office of the European Union)
The European Union has seven principle institutions to conduct its legislative, judiciary and executive functions.
The EU has the following institutions:
- The Council of Ministers
The principal decision-making body, consisting of one representative from each member state. These are usually ministerial level. The presidency is for a six months term, and in January 2016 was held by the Netherlands. The Council meets at Justus Lipsius, Brussels.
- The European Commission
Executive body. Meeting place is Brussels, and Luxembourg. The Commission has a staff of 23,000, distributed among 24 departments. The Commission applies the 'Precautionary Principle', ensuring pre-emptive regulation to prevent damage to the environment or human health, in such areas as combating climate change and restricting genetically modified organisms.
- The European Parliament
751 members, Strassbourg. Elections are held every five years, and currently has a 42.5% voter turn-out from the 375 million eligible voters. The largest party is EPP (European People's Party), with 216 seats, while the Greens-EFA (European Free Alliance) have 50 seats. Rebecca Harms and Philippe Lamberts are the leaders of the Greens-EFA group in the EP.
- The Court of Justice of the European Union CJEU
Located in Luxembourg. Consists of three courts: Court of Justice (ECJ), General Court, and Civil Service Tribunal.
- European Central Bank
Established in 1998, this bank administers the Eurozone (19 members) monetary policies.
European Chemicals Agency ECHA
The European Chemicals Agency. Official body charged with the implementation of REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals).
ECHA assists regulatory authorities in ensuring compliance to chemicals related legislation in the EU. It promotes the safe use of chemicals, and provides general information, as well as addresses issues concerning chemicals of particular concern, such as SVHC (substances of very high concern). Active since 2007, Headquartered in Helsinki, Finland.