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Are EU environmental policies at risk? Learning from the 1990s subsidiarity crisis and the 2000s Better Regulation agenda

Viviane Gravey

The current crisis has seen a number of calls at EU level - from within the Commission and fromcertain Member States - to slow down, halt or even reverse the expansion of EU environmentalpolicy. Are these calls a credible threat to the integrity of the EU green acquis?This paper investigates policy dismantling, i.e. the weakening or removal of existing policy, of EUenvironmental policies. It sheds light on the current pressures on EU environmental legislation byreflecting on two key historical periods in which similar dismantling calls were aired - thesubsidiarity crisis in the early 1990s and the Better Regulation programmes of the mid-2000s. First,it identifies who are the actors demanding dismantling and what is driving them - concerns forefficiency (subsidiarity or proportionality) or sovereignty? Second, it analyses whether previouscalls for dismantling materialised in the actual dismantling of environmental directives orregulations. To do so, it uses a new coding tool to study the changes (expansion and dismantling)that took place during the reforms of directives and regulations targeted for dismantling.Preliminary results suggest that dismantling remains an exception and that EU environmentalpolicies have held fast.

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