The impact of enlargement on EU environmental governance
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Enlargement may affect the three environmental governance regimes which together constitute EU environmental policy in very different ways. The Internal Market regime is based on functional and utilitarian reproductive mechanisms rooted in structures—the institutionalisation of the Internal Market at the core of the Community and the interest of countries with low environmental product standards in harmonisation —that are unlikely to be strongly affected by enlargement. In contrast, it seems possible that enlargement will significantly weaken the environmental regime. If enlargement shifts influence in favour of countries supporting a low level of environmental regulation, this would seriously affect the power and utilitarian mechanisms on which the environmental regime is based. The highly regulated countries could no longer use the environmental regime as an instrument to impose their regulations on the remaining Member States. This would deprive the regime of its most important support base. However, emerging new mechanisms, in particular Enhanced Co-operation, may offer ways for the highly regulated Member States to maintain their superior position and adapt the environmental regime to enlargement. Finally, although the present conditions for environmental policy integration may be even worse in the accession countries than in many present Member States, this might change in the longer run as a result of the particularly good opportunities and potentially large benefits of a shift to sustainable development in these countries. Whether or not this shift will occur appears to depend less on scarce financial resources and administrative capacities of the accession countries than on a firm institutionalisation of the sustainability regime at the Community level. It is up to the highly regulated Member States, which have so far promoted this emerging regime, to achieve this consolidation under relatively favourable conditions before enlargement takes place.
KeywordsEnvironmental Regime Accession Country Administrative Capacity Environmental Policy Integration Sustainability Regime
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