The proposal, which was reached in conciliation between Parliament and the European Council, is not as tough as the legally binding directive that MEPs had originally wished for, and will now result only in a non-binding recommendation preferred by the Council. However, the Conciliation Committee has recommended a step-by-step approach which will be reviewed after two years, and could still result in the development of a directive in the future.

The proposal is now designed to provide environmental inspections at all industrial installations and other facilities where emissions and discharges to the environment are already subject to authorisation, permit or licence under European law. The inspections will involve both routine and non-routine site visits to verify self monitoring by installation operators, and to check that premises, equipment, record-keeping and environmental management are adequate.

The new legislation will also include a request to member states to draw up plans for environmental inspection activities, including the identity of the sites or types of installations covered, a prescribed programme for routine inspections, and co-ordination between different inspection authorities.

Pointing out that over 150 infringement cases are pending in the field of environmental law against member states, MEPs have emphasised that even the best legislation is useless if not applied properly, and have stated that inspection reports should be made publicly available two months after inspection. Parliament has also stipulated that there should be co-ordination of inspections between member states, in order to counteract illegal cross-border environmental practices. Both of these recommendations were accepted by the Conciliation Committee.

Despite the fact that a number of Parliament’s aims have not been fulfilled, MEPs have stated that they are satisfied that this is the best compromise that could have been achieved. However, they have noted that in future, Parliament will consider adding an amendment to any environmental legislation requiring an inspection system to be put in place in order to monitor its application.

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