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- Author: Bernadette Connaughton x
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EU environmental directives illustrate the challenges involved for the effective implementation of European Union policies. This book explores the response of Ireland’s political-administrative system to the implementation of environmental directives in the cases of waste management, water reform and biodiversity. Ireland represents the implementation challenges of a small EU member state with a weak background in environmental governance, and has struggled to adapt to the complexities of enforcing environmental rules. This has resulted in infringement proceedings and critical rulings against Ireland from the Court of Justice of the European Union. The book details how efforts to comply with these measures have been a source of significant pressure on Ireland’s institutional framework but have also prompted considerable learning and adaptation in environmental governance. Using a theoretical framework inspired by traditional implementation analysis and insights from the Europeanisation literature, the book traces the implementation process in three directives. The main conclusion of this study is that Ireland’s implementation performance in waste management, water reforms and nature conservation is influenced by the low issue salience of environmental policy and the need to overcome structural problems in the public administration system in order to give effect to EU legislation.
The introductory chapter sets the context for the book and highlights the importance of effective implementation for the success of environmental policy in Ireland and the European Union. It explains that the institutional architecture of the EU denotes a separation between policy making and implementation activities whereby the European Commission proposes policy but Ireland and other member states are primarily responsible for ensuring its compliance. The chapter presents an overview of Ireland’s environmental performance which demonstrates how the EU has shaped the content of domestic environmental policy, but that its transposition, application and enforcement may be problematic and lead to cases being taken to the Court of Justice of the European Union. It discusses why the implementation stage is viewed as the ‘Achilles’ heel’ of the policy process and explores reasons for implementation deficits. By introducing Ireland’s environmental record and features of the complexity and challenges of EU environmental policy implementation, the chapter sets the scene for the theoretical and empirical discussions in later chapters.
Chapter 2 presents the key theories and concepts addressed in the book. At the centre of the theoretical framework is implementation theory. The chapter synthesises theories of implementation which have sought to conceptualise the way in which law and policy are put into action. There are two main approaches – the ‘top–down’ school and the ‘bottom–up’ school of policy implementation. The second theoretical dimension is Europeanisation which is also illustrative of ‘top–down’ and ‘bottom–up’ approaches. Interpretations of Europeanisation, as predominantly about governance and conceptualisations of Europeanisation as institutionalism inform the scholarship on the implementation of EU legislation and its impact on the polity, policies and politics of the member states. The third discussion addresses the concept of multi-level governance which influences EU policy implementation. Multi-level governance serves as a framework to link our understanding of implementation theory and Europeanisation, which encompass the various levels of governance – European, national, regional and local. A model of analysis apprised by the theoretical discussion is presented in the penultimate section of this chapter. This model will inform the case studies discussed in the second part of the book.
Chapter 3 focuses on the advancement of EU environmental policy, which is regarded as one of the most developed, regulatory dense areas of EU policy making, and a most likely case for Europeanisation. The chapter commences with a commentary on international and EU developments in environmental regulation which have, over time, become intertwined with an agenda of sustainable development and seven environmental action plans. An analysis of the features and principles of the EU environmental policy process is examined, including the shift from from a ‘command and control’ system to interventionist approaches increasingly linked with new forms of governance and instruments such as the ‘polluter pays principle’. These initiatives are linked to recognition of the extent of the implementation challenge. In order to provide a context for the empirical cases investigated in later chapters, the environmental, social and economic problems of three major environmental areas – waste management, water and biodiversity – are considered concurrently with an overview of EU policy responses.
Chapter 4 presents an overview of the institutional architecture and discourse on environmental affairs in Ireland. It outlines the role of actors and institutions, such as the government departments, Environmental Protection Agency and local government, which participate (‘upstream’) with EU environmental policy making and those which grapple (‘downstream’) with implementation. In order to contextualise the explanations of how environmental policy has evolved several landmark events in its development are explored. Central to the discussion is how Ireland engages with EU environmental policy making and what conditions arise to facilitate or obstruct implementation. The chapter investigates the Irish system’s efforts to emphasise clear provisions for transposition and administrative interpretation, in conjunction with efforts to streamline, provide opportunities for consultation and resource the political-administrative system. The chapter unpacks key variables for understanding the implementation of EU environmental policy in Ireland – salience of the environmental issue, goodness of fit, political-administrative culture, weak autonomy of local government, behaviour of target groups and capacity.
Chapter 5 discusses the implementation of waste management policy in Ireland. While waste management is a technical area of environmental management, Ireland’s compliance with EU rules has been fraught with political contestation and structural problems. Central to the discussion is the Landfill Directive 1999/31/EC which aims to divert biodegradable waste on a regional basis, and whether Ireland’s implementation of the directive and adherence to the earlier waste framework legislation has been influenced by structural shortcomings in the political-administrative system. In 2005 it was also a focal element of contention in the ECJ judgement against Ireland in Case C-494/01 which referred to Ireland’s failure to adhere to environmental laws and standards as ‘general and persistent in nature’. The case illustrates Ireland’s struggles to respond to environmental management approaches like incineration and increased recycling. Issues addressed in the waste management discussion are the dual roles of local authorities, as both regulators and competitors with the private sector in waste management, and a lingering ambiguity over the right to direct waste.
Chapter 6 discusses the implementation of the water framework directive in Ireland. Water regulation has largely been driven by Europe and is a politicised issue, given the controversies over water contamination in both rural and urban areas and disagreement over whether the public should be charged for domestic water consumption. Central to the discussion is the Water Framework Directive (WFD) 2000/60/EC which is the most significant piece of water quality legislation to be developed by the EU. The chapter traces the political administrative system’s efforts to develop a coordinated approach to river basin management planning and the principles of the directive. It is emphasises that public participation is a strong focus of the directive but the public’s main attention is largely on water charge issues rather than conservation issues. Central to the discussion are the reforms of water services and the development of a new state agency, Irish Water, and a new regulatory infrastructure.
Chapter 7 highlights the unique features of Ireland’s biodiversity profile and emphasises the importance of its conservation. The discussion explores Ireland’s experience of implementing the birds and habitats directives which form the cornerstone of EU nature policy and its international commitments. Central to their implementation is the creation of a European-wide network of sites for habitats and species called Natura 2000. The chapter illustrates that in Ireland many of these habitats do not reach a favourable status when measured against international and legal obligations to protect biodiversity. Central to explanations of Ireland’s biodiversity conservation approaches is that all stages of implementation of the birds and habitats directives have been subject to high adaptational pressures and conflict between the National Parks and Wildlife Services and stakeholders whose private property can be subject to this legislation. The discussion pays particular attention to the efforts to ban turf cutting on raised boglands in special areas of conservation and the conflict this has sparked.
Chapter 8 concludes that Ireland’s public administration performance in transposition, practical application, enforcement/control and outcomes in the three environmental cases – waste, water and biodiversity have been influenced by the low issue salience of environmental policy objectives, political contestation and historical shortcomings in the capacity of the administrative system to give effect to EU legislation. The nature of EU environmental policy implementation is revisited and explanations provided by the variables – issue salience, goodness of fit, national and local administrative capacity, autonomy of local government, selection of policy instruments and target group behaviour are presented with evidence from the case studies. The cases illustrate substantive learning and many challenges for public administration, which will be heightened by Brexit. The discussion then returns to how implementation is theorised, how we think about what influences its success and failure and how it should be studied.
This chapter discusses the political institutions and administrative adaptation in Ireland and the impact of Europeanisation on domestic policy processes. It evaluates the impact of Europeanisation on Ireland's national and sub-national institutions and systems of public administration and public policy. It suggests that the central tenets of the political-administrative framework have not fundamentally changed and trends evident in other member states are apparent. This chapter also investigates whether the nature and extent of these changes over time led to a realignment of the institutional machinery and administrative practice.