At the European level, public participation is regulated by two directives: Directive 2001/42/EC (.PDF) of 27 June 2001 and Directive 2003/35/EC (.PDF) of 26 May 2003.

Directive 2001/42/EG

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Directive 2001/42/EC (.PDF) relates to plans and programmes with a potentially negative impact on the environment, i.e. chiefly to polluting sectors such as energy (e.g. production, supply and transport of gas and electricity), nuclear activities and mobility. 

The directive requires that the environmental effects of such plans and programmes be identified and assessed during the preparatory and implementation phases. This entails drawing up an environmental report on the effects of the draft plan or programme on the environment. This procedure is termed the strategic environmental assessment (SEA).

This directive is also known as the “Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive” or “SEA Directive”: Strategiv Environmental Assessment (HTML)


Directive 2003/35/EC

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Directive 2003/35/EC (.PDF) concerns plans and programmes with the primary aim of protecting the environment, such as the Programme for reducing pesticides and biocides (PRPB) and the Belgian national biodiversity strategy.

The directive deals with the measures for public participation when drafting certain environmental plans and programmes, except for the plans and programmes covered by the SEA directive. For plans and programmes covered by the SEA directive and requiring a strategic environmental assessment (see above), no additional public consultation is necessary, because it is already incorporated in the SEA procedure. SEA takes precedence, rendering a second consultation unnecessary.

This directive also stipulates measures for participation when granting permits for special projects. In this respect, it amends Directive 85/337/EEG (.File HTM) on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment, and Directive 96/61/EC (.File 8736007) concerning integrated pollution prevention and control (better known as the IPPC directive).