Room for the regions in European policy

The Council investigates tension between policy and legislation developed at European level and implementation of environmental and planning policy at regional level
illustration of cooperation between the different levels of governance


European influence in the region

Government authorities at various levels develop and carry out policies that affect the physical environment: at the European (EU) level, national, regional and local levels. Over the past few decades, the influence of the EU on policy affecting the physical environment has grown considerably. More than ever, this policy is being carried out by provinces, water boards and municipalities. The consequences of these developments are becoming increasingly tangible for society, individuals and businesses. Legislation can create or even diminish opportunities, either directly or indirectly.

Request for advice

This advisory report investigates the tension between policy and legislation developed at the European level and the implementation of environmental and planning policy at the regional level.The following questions guided the research:

  • What difficulties and conflicts are found at the regional level as a result of environmental legislation and to what extent can they be attributed to European policy?
  • What creates tension between different tiers of government?
  • What can the different government authorities and other stakeholders do in the European policymaking process to reduce these tensions?

In order to gain insight into this complex process – from getting issues on the European agenda to local implementation – Rli carried out a literature study, conducted interviews, held workshops and analysed examples of environmental and infrastructure policies. The case studies provide insight into how the political process occurs in practice, where friction arises (from the preparatory stage of EU laws and regulations up to their implementation) and where innovative solutions were discovered. The case study analyses are primarily intended to discover where tensions arise and what has been, or could be, learned from them.

Key recommendations

The Rli recommends improving coordination and exchange between governmental levels, which in turn will improve communication between European policy development and implementation. In brief, the Rli makes the following suggestions for the national government, subnational authorities and the wider community:

  • Act strategically during the preparatory stage
  • Develop smart collaboration between national and subnational authorities and the public
  • Promote other governance options than regulation
  • Acknowledge regional diversity by allowing flexibility for local interpretation
  • View borders as European connections
  • Reduce the auditing and reporting burden

Publication Date 

The advice ‘Room for the region in European policy’ was presented to the Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment on September 21, 2015.

Information or response 

For more information or to respond, please contact Hannah Koutstaal, project leader,