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Successful Conference on Harmonisation in Environmental and Energy Law    2 apr 2019

Successful Conference on Harmonisation in Environmental and Energy Law
2 apr 2019

Within the context of celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Law Faculty of Hasselt University, together with several other Belgian universities and the European Environmental Law Forum, organised an international conference on harmonisation in environmental and energy law, which took place on the 28th and 29th of March 2019. During two very rewarding days, the Environmental Law Unit was pleased to host around 60 academics, practitioners and policy makers from all over Europe.

The rather broad topic of harmonisation in environmental and energy law was selected because it fits in with research currently being conducted in the Environmental Law Unit, which is part of the Research Centre for Government and Law (CORe) at Hasselt University.

Merits of harmonisation

Environmental legislation is often incoherent and fragmented, causing hurdles to its application and enforcement. In this regard, rule makers resort to harmonisation. Harmonisation is seen as referring to a number of techniques and instruments that all aim to clarify rules and create a more coherent and solid legal framework. The main aim of the conference was to examine the merits of harmonisation, without overlooking potential problems, and ask critical questions to spike fundamental discussions.

Besides five keynote speeches from renown academics and the Director-General of DG Environment of the European Commission, 33 other researchers in the field of environmental and energy law shared their findings during five parallel sessions. These sessions were organised in four tracks, covering the topics of harmonisation theory, harmonisation techniques, harmonisation in environmental law and harmonisation in energy law. Presenters were first invited to elaborate on their selected topic, while afterwards other participants had the opportunity to ask questions and give remarks during a short panel debate.

Radical change

During the first plenary session, professor Michael Faure and professor Ludwig Krämer reflected on the possibility of codifying EU environmental law in order to attain a more harmonised system. Although both keynote speakers were doubtful that codification would in fact lead to a better system of environmental law, they did provide several other options to improve the application and enforcement of the legislation, in order to better protect the environment. In conclusion, a radical change would be preferred instead of yet another paper operation.

In the sessions on harmonisation theory several more general topics were discussed, ranging from the relation between the internal market and genuine environmental policy, to the question how far harmonisation laws should go and whether they merely serve a symbolic aim. The harmonisation techniques that were addressed during the following sessions included the integrated emission permit, internal harmonisation, soft law and the need for consistent terminology in multilingual Europe. Going more into specifics, the sessions on harmonisation in environmental law covered several presentations on harmonisation in the field of environmental crime and liability, nature, wildlife and biodiversity and a diversity of other topics. The focus during the energy law sessions was on harmonisation in renewable energy legislation, energy regulation and various other subjects.

More relevant than ever

Concluding the second day of the conference, a second plenary session on future harmonisation steps took place. Professor Charles-Hubert Born reflected on the future of harmonisation in environmental law and offered a more optimistic view on the matter, emphasising the need for substantive integration of environmental law rather than purely formal harmonisation through codification. Professor Saskia Lavrijssen looked into harmonisation in the field of energy law, more specifically the relation of EU Electricity Network Codes to the concept of good governance. Finally, Mr. Daniel Calleja Crespo, Director-General of DG Environment, offered a more practical, policy-oriented view on the topic of harmonisation in environmental law. He proclaimed that the discussion on codification and harmonisation is more relevant than ever, and provided an overview of current activities and initiatives of the Commission to ascertain overall coherence in environmental legislation. After a fruitful debate between the keynote presenters and the participants, professor Bernard Vanheusden concluded the successful conference with a look forward to future activities that will be organised by the Environmental Law Unit and the European Environmental Law Forum on the subject of harmonisation in environmental and energy law.