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EU Environmental Law & Policy


Admission requirements

Registration for the Minor European Union Studies or admission to the pre-master European Union Studies


Environmental law and policy takes a prominent yet paradoxical role in the European integration project. Despite its humble beginnings, lacking a legal treaty basis and bootstrapped from a mere by-product of economic market integration, it has become one of the most densely regulated and litigated areas of EU law and policy, which moreover must be ‘integrated’ into all other EU policy areas. Today, up to 80% of all domestic environmental law and policy in each of the 28 Member States has an EU origin, making this a frontrunner area of European harmonization.
Yet, at the same time, EU environmental law also suffers from the very worst implementation and enforcement deficits of all EU policy fields. Environmental standards are (seen as) costly, burdensome, often unpopular, and inherently create barriers to trade. Yet, environmental issues can also be described as ‘quintessentially European’, given their inherent transboundary and migratory nature.
These paradoxes, and the seemingly inevitable dichotomy between environmental and economic interests (leading to clashes between and within EU institutions, member states, industry and civil society organizations) will be explored in this course. We will examine how the unique and complex characteristics and framing of environmental ‘problems’ affects the way state and non-state actors, respectively and collaboratively, respond to major contemporary environmental problems and the thorny moral dilemmas they present.

Course Objectives

This course will familiarize students with the fundamental concepts that govern EU environmental law and policy – identifying the main actors and their interactions, key procedures and principles (incl. precaution, prevention, sustainable development, polluter-pays, proximity, integration, etc), as well as to facilitate an understanding of how those concepts are transposed, applied and enforced (or not) in practice in the EU Member States’ legal orders; and to critically analyze various shortcomings in the EU institutional oversight of EU environmental policy and law, including the lack of effective inspection and enforcement powers, the weakness of the EU sanctions and penalties system, and possible ways to overcome these challenges.

Against this theoretical background, in-depth case studies (both in lectures and student presentations and papers) will analyze the real-world ‘law in action’ of specific contemporary and controversial EU environmental policy areas (e.g. chemicals; biotech/GMO foods; climate change; energy; fracking; nature conservation; waste; water; agriculture; fisheries; lobbying, liability; competition law; etc).


See website Minor EUS.

Mode of instruction

This course adopts a highly interactive teaching method (participatory learning). Students will be actively engaged and challenged to work as a ‘community of learners’ to develop their individual skills of critical analysis and reflection, both in written work, class discussions and in their presentations.
The course will be supported by an online network group on Yammer, where we will share and discuss relevant news, events, publications, etc, and where each student will post a critical opinion blogpost on a current event relevant to the course.

Course Load

Assessment method

Case Study Paper: 50%
Case Study Presentation: 30%
Critical opinion blogpost: 10%
Class participation: 10% (including performance in discussions, discussant role, peer review, self-evaluation, etc)



Blackboard will be used.

Reading list

A reading list will be distributed at the start of the course


Via uSis.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.



Contact information

Dhr. Mr. T.F.M. (Thijs) Etty, email