'Despite our excellent, extensive legislation, not all of our policies are performing as well as they could', noted Commissioner Karmenu Vella in his concluding speech of the EU Green Week 2019 which took place from 13 till 17 May, and this is due to implementation gaps. Through events across Europe, and a major policy conference in Brussels, participants discussed the implementation gaps of EU environmental laws and successful solutions in policy areas like air quality, nature and biodiversity, waste and water management. 

Here are three main highlights of the Brussels’ event:

With regards to the waste sector, themes that were outlined include how to enhance the implementation of EU’s waste legislation and specifically the recycling performance, meeting the targets for collection, preparation for reuse and recycling of electrical and electronic waste. A specific session was dedicated to improve waste management as a building block of the circular economy.

Best practices in separate collection of municipal waste were presented and the role of extended producer responsibility schemes was discussed. Despite the progress made, challenges that prevent Member States to reach full compliance with waste targets remain, as concluded in the EC Report on the 'implementation of EU waste legislation, including the early warning for Member States at risk of missing the 2020 preparation for re-use/recycling target on municipal waste' (September 2018).

Local and regional policies are equally crucial for sustainable waste management. Interesting examples of good practices in this policy area come from the Interreg Europe INTHERWASTE project which has a particular focus on heritage cities such as Cordoba, Krakow, Tallin, Ibiza and Porto. These cities exchange on waste management practices related to their challenges of large tourist flows, winding city centres and aesthetic criteria to be respected.  

Fostering investments in support of the EU’s Circular Economy Package was also discussed, in terms of understanding linear risks for businesses, harmonising the circular economy taxonomy, supporting policies and instruments for wider investments in green innovation and boosting circular transformation of businesses. The role of businesses in the transition to circular economy is also one of the themes that is being tackled by Interreg Europe projects.

Thematic exchange on how circular economy stimulates  businesses to rethink the ways they create value was the focus of recent events organised by Interreg Europe Policy Learning Platform: a webinar on circular business models and a thematic workshop on industrial symbiosis.

Finally, the recently adopted second Environmental Implementation Review – the EIR – was also presented. It is a concise and objective look at what is working in the EU environment policy and what still needs to be improved.  

During the event it was reconfirmed that transparency and dialogue are essential to ensure effective implementation of environmental legislation. In addition, better implementation of EU conservation legislation requires the development of a sense of ownership among all stakeholders regarding the management of protected areas. A workshop on this topic was held as part of the programme of the EU Green Week 2019 outlining also how inclusive conservation could help Natura 2000 beyond 2020. 

Regional authorities are instrumental in addressing the challenges related to meeting biodiversity targets and many of the ongoing Interreg Europe projects are working in this direction. For example, the topic of improving participatory governance is addressed by several Interreg Europe projects, among which BIO-GOV, IMPACT and SWARE

Next year, EU Green Week will be devoted to biodiversity, a topic that requires urgent action considering the recent findings of the first IPBES global assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services. In addition, the Biodiversity COP will be held in China and it will be crucial that the EU continues to take the global lead.

Other relevant sessions: 

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