Oct 29, 2020 in Informative

How to make EU member states comply in terms of enviornmental agreements/treaties? Sample

Why do EU member states comply with environmental agreements/treaties at different levels? How to make EU member states comply?

In the 21st century, the majority of environmental issues have a transboundary effect. The problem that occurs in one location is easily transmitted to other places, where it harms people and the environment. This forms the understanding that the governments of various countries should combine their efforts in addressing climate change and environmental problems. That is why the countries united by the general purpose for the effective meeting of these issues (like the European Union) established numerous multinational environmental agreements and treaties. These documents form an over-arching international legal basis for the global efforts.

It should be noted that European environmental agreements and treaties do not automatically become a part of the legal system of the member states. They only specify the major goals and objectives aimed at addressing climate change and nature preservation. The governments and sub-national authorities should implement the provisions of these agreements into local law. Particularly, all local authorities are responsible for the realization of multinational environmental laws within the EU. The implementation of the set obligations in the full extent is crucial for this union because compliance forms the background to the realization of cooperation strategies of environmental protection in the EU member states.


However, some of the member states partially comply or do not fully comply with the EU environmental agreements.

The research questions of the current work are:

What makes the EU member states not comply with the environmental agreements/treaties?

What should be done to make them comply?

The first part of the paper provides the detailed analysis of the formation of norms and their major characteristics. The enormous importance of this analysis for the discussion of the chosen topic is in the fact that it helps understand the reasons for different behaviors and the levels of compliance of the member states, the role of economic factors and local actors.

The precise analysis of environmental condition and the number of infringements of the EU member states, their economics, politics, and views of common people are performed either to prove or to reject the four research hypotheses. The first one underlines that the behavior of a member state is influenced by current policies and the structure of a government. This means that a domestic institution can affect the compliance with the environmental agreements and treaties. The second hypothesis assumes that the economic instability and insufficient economic development entail the non-compliance with the set environmental regulations. The third hypothesis underlines that the extent of the accountability to the environmental agreements and treaties is dependent and can be improved under the influence of the public opinion and the public sector. The last hypothesis states that the insufficient clarity of the language of international regulations, which concern the environmental protection, serves as a barrier to their effective implementation. These hypotheses can prove that there are various managerial and political reasons why international environmental legislation creates only the framework of the environmental strategies, while the actual realization of these strategies is performed by the domestic institutions of the EU member states. The additional emphasis will be made on the discussion of such adverse factors as the complexity of regimes of the member states that established and adopted the agreements in accordance with their distinct political and economic interests. These hypotheses will be analyzed on the example of the chosen EU member states - Greece, Germany, and the Netherlands.


Qualitative information concerning the compliance with the environmental treaties of three member states will allow determining why some member states comply with the environmental agreements differently and identifying the ways on how to make them comply. The hypotheses formed on the background of available theoretical researches will be applied to three member states of the European Union that show the different extent of compliance.

The major part of the quantitative information is taken from the official investigations on the fulfillment of the set environmental strategies, eight reports and surveys of various international organizations performed within the previous five years, books and specialized articles taken from the peer-reviewed journals. These organizations are the European Union, the World Wildlife Fund, the European Commission, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and Flash Eurobarometer 381. The statistics on the environment infringements and the number of failures to comply with the judgment of the EU are taken from the official website of the European Commission. These figures show the enormous number of non-fulfillment of the environmental obligations by the European Union. Moreover, they reveal the different extent of compliance by the member states. This information is used in order to choose the countries that have different extent of the effectiveness of the compliance of the environmental policies: the Netherlands, Germany, and Greece. The research on the environmental strategies of these countries is focused on the analysis of their performance and the identification of the factors that facilitate the occurrence of discrepancies.

The obtained outcomes will provide a clear understanding of discrepancies in the realization of the environmental strategies and the ways aimed at improving compliance with the established agreements and treaties.

Literature Review

This works defines and explains the formation of the norms, as well as reveals existing interdependence between the self-interest of norm fulfillment and the necessity of sanctions. This paper defines the norms and discusses the specific lifecycle applicable to all norms (including the norms of the environmental agreements and treaties). It also reveals the factors that affect the extent of the domestic acceptance of the international norms. It should be noted that the norms can be considered as a standard of suitable behavior of the member states within a particular institution. Additional attention is paid to the formation of interconnections between the states desire to realize the set norms and the necessity to apply certain sanctions. This means that the requisite to apply the sanctions for non-compliance with the environmental treaties depends on the intentions of the member states to realize the taken environmental regulations.

The understanding of the discrepancies in compliance is based on the identification and precise consideration of the factors that affect actions and desires of the member states and their interconnection between the states legislation and the intentions of the local institutions to establish and perform environmental protecting actions. These factors are: the structure of the addressed issue; the structure of the offered solution; the process of development and the realization of a solution; strengths and the quality of the introduced international norms; the availability and strength of structural interconnections among the international institutions that develop and insist on the realization of the agreements and domestic actors; and the extent of the institutionalization of international systems (or their structure). Moreover, there is a strong interconnection between the compliance with environmental agreements and the legislation: legal rules set the standard by which compliance is guided. This interconnection is also viewed in the definition of compliance, which is a state of conformity or identity between an actors behavior and specified rule. Mbaye, Perkins and Neumayer agree with their ideas, whereas Abashidze emphasizes the existence of the strong links between international and local legislations and describes their roles. The first one creates the framework of strategies and actions, while the second one is responsible for their realization. Brewester notes that the extent of international agreements realization depends on the domestic legislation and its structure as international bodies highly rely on the local law. This reliance has both managerial and political backgrounds. Garcia agrees with the above interpretation of the interconnection between compliance with the environmental agreements, but the researcher emphasizes the necessity of the actions that should be performed by the local institutions to realize different international agreements. These theoretical researches brought the understanding that violation of environmental agreements can result from an insufficient desire of member states to realize these agreements, specifics of local legislation, and inability to realize environmental protection initiatives because of economic issues.

The examination of discrepancies in compliance of the chosen member states with environmental agreements is based on various reports that enable to determine interconnection between the infringements of environmental laws and environmental condition, legislation, and economics of the chosen member states. The environmental policies in the Netherlands are discussed in a special review prepared by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. This review allows assessing the countrys progress in reaching the environmental targets, determining the effectiveness of various operations and existing deficiencies, and providing recommendations aimed at environmental governance. The information about the similar environmental performance of Germany is taken from a special report on this country provided by the same organization three years ago. The environmental strategy of Greece is discussed by Nantsou, Prodromou, and Mantzaris in their report for the World Wildlife Fund. The analysis of the citizens' attitudes of the chosen countries towards the environmental situations and the nature protection policies are studied on the basis of the outcomes of the special survey - Attitudes of European Citizens towards the Environment.

The additional attention is paid to the fact that weak compliance is associated with the deficiencies of the law of the environmental treaties. The deficiencies in the clarity of the language of the modern environmental policies, which may affect the compliance with these policies, are studied on the basis of the research performed by Wilkinson. The violation of an environmental treaty because of language ambiguity and insufficient economic development are also studied by Downs and Jones. The information provided in this literature allows understanding that insufficient compliance with the environmental agreements may be caused by the deficiencies in language of these agreements.

Theoretical Framework

Norms can be defined as a standard of appropriate behavior for actors with a given identity. This definition will be applied so as to understand the norms of the environmental agreements and their realization in the current work. Goertz and Diehl state that conceptualizing norms is impossible without the consideration of the regularity and consistency of the major actors behavior that can be reflected in their economic and political actions. As per their understanding, the member states should act similarly in the same condition. These definitions reveal a vital characteristic of norms in international relations, which is the behavior of the member states should align with understandings of proper behavior of other actors in the EU, notwithstanding the fact that the following ideas have the lack of the assessment of the member states' actions in different economic and political conditions. Liese also supports this idea by stating that international norms should be fixed, have a certain meaning, and be collectively expected within local actors in the economic and political conditions that are specific for each member state. Actions of member states should align with the general strategy developed and approved by the organization that unites them. Otherwise, they will stand in opposition to the political and economic course of the actions chosen by the majority. Thus, the framework of the course of actions and norms could not be applied to them. This information brings the understanding that environmental treaties by representing a special form of international norms undermine compliance to them by all member states.

There are various divisions of norms based on their distinct characteristics and performed functions. Goertz and Diehl categorize the norms on the background of the presence or absence of self-interest, sanctions, and deontology: be cooperative, hegemonic, and decentralized. Cooperative norms are characterized by the correspondence to the self-interests of actors and the elimination of the necessity to set sanctions (as the states have an insufficient desire to violate the set norms). Hegemonic norms represent the norms that can be characterized by the availability of partial conflict between the norm and the self-interest of member states, the existence of sanctions established by a central actor, and the moderate level of support for the realization of the provision from some of the involved parties. Decentralized norms are the norms that stand in confrontation with the self-interest of member-states and are characterized by the absence of a central sanctioning body, the diffusion of the power of sanctions that depends on the willingness of member states to bear responsibility for their actions and corresponding sanctions, and the significant importance of a deontological aspect. The norms of the EU environment protection agreements can be characterized differently for different states. For example, for the Netherlands, these norms have a cooperation character as they align with the current governmental strategies. For Germany, they have a hegemonic character, and for Greece, they have a decentralized character as they stand in confrontation with the self-interest of this member state. These discrepancies in characterization provide the precise explanation why some member states show a high rate of compliance with the environmental agreements, whereas the others do not realize these norms to the full extent.

Finnemore and Sikink base their division of norms on the performed functions, i.e. either the regulation or formation of certain behaviors: regulative and constructive. Regulative norms aim to order and constrain the behavior of the parties obliged to comply with these norms for the development and assurance order, whereas constructive norms are created to establish new actors and direct the actions of these actors. The environmental norms discussed in the current work have a transitional character because they combine both regulative and constructive elements. This means that on the one hand, the environmental agreements constrain the behavior of the member states and force them to establish certain initiatives aimed at reducing negative impacts on the environment, and on the other hand, these agreements force the development of new legal bodies that would ensure that the local actors would comply with the UN environmental strategies.

Liese notes that norms can possess obligation, precision, and delegation. The researcher states that the existence of some obligation has an enormous impact on compliance. Moreover, Liese pays attention to the voluntary compliance, i.e. the possibility to reach the full extent of fulfillment of the set obligations if the member states would have a strong self-interest in such fulfillment. Thus, the non-compliance with the EU environmental protection agreements can be explained by the absence of strong interest among some member states to realize certain norms.

Interestingly, this division brings to light different factors that affect the extent of the realization of some norms. Goertz and Diehl and Liese note that the possibility of non-compliance with the environmental agreements is minimized in the situations when the established norms correspond with the strategies of member states that should fulfill them. Thus, no sanction mechanism can be applied to, or its strictness can be lowered. Consequently, the member states whose local policies align with the UN environmental protection strategies comply with the multinational environmental agreements even without the application of sanctions and restrictions to them.

Each norm passes through three stages of its lifecycle: emergency, cascade (or acceptance), and internalization. The precise consideration of all these stages enables the determination of major actors and their roles in the norm creation, establishment, and inception. The first stage occurs on the basis of a clear understanding of the agents (or entrepreneurs) of the adopting institution concerning the appropriate behaviors or desired conditions. These agents pay attention to the issues they find significant or create these issues and develop steps for their addressing. The entrepreneurs have a strong belief in the introduced ideas and norms even if these norms do not have any significant effect on their existence. Multinational norms are promoted on the international level on special organizational platforms. In the current case, this platform is the European Union. It should be noted that the structure of the platforms can influence norms formation, further promotion, and realization, which will be discussed later. The inhibition of norms requires strong support of the actors of these organizations for its acceptance. The second stage requires the involvement of the domestic actors. Thus, the major parties of this process are not only international organizations, but also member states and local authorities. The last stage occurs when the norm is widely accepted and achieved as taken for granted. The involved parties are motivated to comply with them because of the motive of conformity. The major dominant mechanisms of this stage are habit, institutionalization, and universalization. The domestic receptiveness of international norms depends on numerous factors. They are legitimacy, prominence, intrinsic qualities, adjacency, and world time. Additionally, there is more similarity in the way norms and law work domestically and internationally. Thus, the lifecycle of norm formation shows the enormous role of the domestic actors' attitudes in the extent of compliance with the environmental agreements and treaties. The member states in which environmental protection policies are taken for granted and align with the views of local actors and public considerations show high levels of compliance.

Non-critical and Critical Factors of Compliance with the EU Environmental Agreements and Treaties

The compliance with the environmental agreements and treaties may depend on numerous factors. Some of them are important, but not vital, i.e. non-critical. Other factors are essential, i.e. critical. This idea is based on the research performed by Raustiala and Slaughter. The scientists note that some of the factors are crucial for the effective realization of international agreements and treaties in the whole extent, when the others are rather important but not vital. The current section will provide a brief overview of the non-critical factors and a precise consideration of the critical ones.

Non-critical Factors

Compliance also has strong relationships with such concepts as implementation and effectiveness. The first concept implies putting the international agreements into practice through the creation of committees, and passing appropriate local legislation. Implementation is a logical step towards compliance, but not vital, i.e. compliance can happen without it. For example, if the existing legislation matches the requirements of an international agreement, the government should not implement any additional steps. The second concept can be defined as the extent to which a rule induces the changes in the behaviors of countries, which facilitate reaching the aims which these rules were established for. Notwithstanding the close connection between effectiveness and compliance, the effectiveness of regulations is not also a vital step for compliance. The government can adopt the effective rules; however, it can fail to comply with the environmental agreements. These explanations show that implementation and effectiveness are rather important but non-critical factors for compliance.

Critical Factors

The described critical factors form the background for the introduced hypotheses. They are the following: domestic policies and structure of local governments, the economic condition of a member state, the pressure of public opinion (local actors), and the clarity of language. The hypotheses and their theoretic confirmation by the outcomes of various researches are presented below.

Consideration of the Hypothesis on the Examples of the Chosen EU Member States

Discrepancies in the Compliance with the Environmental Agreements and Treaties

The chosen member states have significant discrepancies in the extent of the fulfillment of the UN environmental agreements and treaties. These discrepancies became apparent due to the analysis of the number of infringements to the UN environmental policies and numerous failures to comply with the judgement of the EU Court. The last concerns the Article 260 case. These cases are designated when the country does not comply with the decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) that determined an infringement. According to Article 260, the infringements and failures are visualized in Figure 1 and Figure 2.

EU member states comply in terms of enviornmental agreements

Figure 1: Infringements per Member State.

EU member states comply in terms of enviornmental agreements

Figure 2: Cases as per Article 260.

The above figures show that Greece has one of the biggest numbers of infringements (27) and cases as per 260 Article (8); Germany has the moderate level of infringements (15) and cases as per 260 Article (1), and the Netherlands has the lowest level of infringements (1) and no failures (0). The fact that these countries have different extent of compliance with the EU environmental policies makes their comparison relevant to reach the goal of the current work, i.e. to understand the nature of these discrepancies and the ways of making the countries comply.

Domestic Policies and the Structure of Local Governments

The main factor that has an enormous effect on the realization of the environmental agreements and treaties in full extent is member states law and its structure. The efficiency of the local legislature, societal structure and the level of democracy play an enormous role in implementing the law that protects particularly civil and political rights, as well as market economy. Domestic law acts as a driving force for compliance with the international regulations as they are incorporated into the local legislature. The notion of the existence of close interrelationships between international law and state law can be summarized from the work of Abashidze. Abashidze emphasizes that international legislation forms the directions of the states actions, while the domestic institutions perform the actual realization.

There are managerial and political reasons why international legislation creates only the framework of environmental strategies, while the actual realization is performed by the domestic institutions. The local institutions have a better understanding of the appropriate ways of the realization of international environmental agreements as they have a better comprehension of economic and political conditions in their respective regions. They can develop expertise, collect information, and translate this idea into policy quicker and in a more effective manner. An additional emphasis should be made on the public access of local actors to domestic legislation and their ability to influence the methods of realization on the international environmental policies. At the same time, relying on domestic institutions grants higher political support of international environmental strategies.

In the context of the current work, the emphasis should be made on the interconnection between the effectiveness of the realization of international agreements and such characteristics of state and the manner of work of local institutions as liberalism. Raustiala and Slaughter suggest that liberal states, due to their distinct characteristics, are more likely to take an active part in the designation and realization of environment protection policy. They are characterized by a greater extent of freedom and wealth, which form the background for their greater willingness to pass environmentally conscious legislation. Additionally, the citizens of liberal states support a more peaceful way of dispute resolution by the key institutions. They will probably avoid the direct conflict if they are dissatisfied with the governmental policies and strategies. These studies support the idea that the member states that have stable, democratic and satisfied political culture can align to environmental regulations much easier and more precisely.

At the same time, according to the special research of the realization of provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the economic condition of member state has a greater influence on the extent of compliance to set international agreements than a democratic situation in a member state. Ones of the reasons for non-compliance noted by Raustiala and Slaughter are resource compliance and the incapacity of a member state to realize the set strategy.

The inability of non-liberal states to fulfill the international obligations can be explained by the enormous poverty, the high level of bureaucracy, ineffective institutional design (national administrative structures). It should be noted that governmental inefficiency can result in the states inability to perform effective management of compliance with the multinational agreements and treaties. For example, in the highly corrupt countries, compliance is accomplished only when bureaucrats have a personal incentive to realize the set strategies. Patronage positions, a systematic requirement of side payments and a low interest of corrupt parties in the implementation of necessary initiatives in such states generate more infringements. In such a manner, the strategies developed by various international organizations do not suit the realization on the local levels. Borzel states that policy of misfit is introduced as one of the major causes of non-compliance.

Garcia even specifies the factors that influence this interconnection: self-execution and non-self-execution. In the situations when the treaties are self-executive and can be enforced without the need for subsequent actions of local legislation, their realization is easier than the realization of the non-self-executing agreements. In such a manner, Garcia expresses the idea that the extent of the realization of international agreements depends on the complexity of the steps that should be taken on places.

The extent of compliance with the international environmental agreements and treaties depends greatly on the domestic institutions. This assumption is based on the understanding that the existing states policies and structures, which affect the states actions on the domestic level, have an enormous effect on the behavior of the EU member states.

Assessment of Hypothesis 1

This hypothesis assumes that domestic institution affects states compliance because the current policies and the structure of the government on a domestic level can influence the states behavior based on case studies of several EU members. This assumption will be checked by the precise consideration of the Netherlands, Germany, and Greece.

The Netherlands

This EU member state can be characterized as a country with flexible, diversified, high value-added and competitive economy benefits from strong domestic institutions, a track record of sound budgetary management, and historically broad public and political consensus in support of fiscal discipline. The Netherlands has a strong and coherent environmental legislature and a strong legal foundation. The Activities Decree reduced the administrative burden by providing a single procedure for the application for obtaining environmental permits. This causes a significant reduction in bureaucratic involvement. As it is shown in Figure 3, these measures are combined with the stringent environmental policies, which are much stricter than in other EU member states.

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Figure 3: Stringency of environmental policies in EU member states

These policies are reflected in the reduction of the greenhouse gasses, the sustainable use of resources, the increase in the application of renewable sources of energy, effective water management (the highest flood protection standards in the world), and the creation of unique conditions for biodiversity.

The country performs recent re-assessment of the existing environmental policies for their further amendment. In 2018, the government intends that the Environment and Planning Act that will integrate all national legislation for the protection of the natural environment will enter into force.


Unlike the Netherlands that is considered to be the first member state that has actively been introducing and implementing strategies that align with the UN environmental agreements since the 1980s, Germany started active protection of the environmental policies only in the beginning of the 21st century. Thus, the German mechanism of the realization of international environmental strategies is less developed than that in the Netherlands.

Currently, this country has strong institutional and legal frameworks. Additionally, there is strong congruence between German and European institutions, interests and identities. These factors assure the effectiveness and strengths of the developed and realized local regulations and their aligning with the environmental directions of the UN. It is reflected in Table 3, where Germany is shown as the country with the high stringency of the environmental policies. These policies concern the immission control (protection from noise and reduction in air pollution), energy saving operations, water protection, nature conservation, protection from hazard substances, nuclear safety, etc. Germany increases the use of renewable resources, introduces environmentally motivated taxes, encourages green infrastructure, and so on. Additionally, this country plays a proactive role in anticipating and shaping different EU environmental initiatives. This shows that Germany is highly interested in the realization of environmental initiatives in the UN. This can be explained by the high incentives based on a strong understanding of environmental protection and supportive legislation. At the same time, the country devotes insufficient efforts to the promotion of renewable resources as the implicit cost of abating CO2 emissions...has been well above the CO2 allowance price. This shows some weaknesses in the current strategy, which may be connected with the short history of the implementation of the environmental initiatives.


This member state has the legislation that does not align with the UN environmental agreements and policies. Moreover, in the recent years, the situation became even sharper. According to the special investigation performed by the World Wide Fund, further diminution of the countrys system of environmental governance occurs because of the incorporation of the environment protection sector to the local agricultural sector. Thus, fewer efforts are devoted to environmental protection. The country suffers from a reduction in the environmental inspectorate and an increase in the number of illegal constructions. This report provides a clear understanding regarding the enormous lowering in the transparency of the law-making process and in the actions by the Greek fund in the country. This happened because of an enormous number of client lists, which were not coordinated. These actions occurred because particular interest groups and settle established infringements. This has been performed at the cost of legal certainty and mockery of the law-abiding citizens and businesses. All these factors act as strong facilitators to partly or full violation of the UN environmental agreements.


The analysis of domestic legislation of the chosen member states shows that it has an enormous influence on the extent of compliance with the multinational environmental agreements. The Netherlands with strong domestic institutions, sound budgetary management and a long history of the establishment of various environmental protection initiatives, which are constantly improved, showed a better compliance with the environmental treaties than Greece and Germany.

The medium level of compliance of Germany can be explained by shorter history, less practice, and the absence of a smooth-running mechanism of the development and realization of environmental policies. Thus, this country still has numerous infringements.

The sharpest situation is observed in Greece and its environmental policies. The enormous number of infringements can be explained by the non-willingness of the local government to realize the EU environmental policies. This government intentionally tries lowering transparency, reducing the unsustainable use of resources, increasing the number of illegal constructions, and decreasing the power of environmental inspectorate. This is made with the aim to obtain greater financial benefits because these actions provide financial receipts while environment protection actions require significant expenses. Governmental policies and the behavior of local legal structures do not align with the EU environmental directions as the government and local actors are more interested in serving their own mercantile interests, which are at odds with nature protection. Additionally, Greece does not have any strong mechanism aimed at establishing and realizing the policies that would assure the effectiveness and coherence of environmental protection steps. This can be seen on the discoordination of its environment protection steps. Thus, the absence of strong concernment and a clear mechanism aimed at eliminating non-compliance with the set environmental agreements causes the great number infringements, which reflect non-compliance with EU environmental policies.
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Economic Condition

Insufficient economic development and sharp economic conditions represent a significant barrier in the fulfillment of the environmental obligations in full extent. Downs and Jones note that they are one of the major factors of treaty violations. The excessive cost of compliance with the multinational environmental agreements and treaties causes the delay, dilution, and non-fulfillment of the obligations. They also state that an economic situation in the member states forms the background that allows understanding the importance of the fulfillment of the taken environmental obligations and reputational consequences. In the application to environmental law, states do attach different values for different agreements.

This idea is supported by the works of Mayer who notes that the member states weigh up the material costs and possible benefits before the fulfillment of certain steps. In such a manner, they act as rational, calculative and self-interested actors. This means that before the actual realization of certain environmental strategies, countries should consider whether they will have the economic ability to realize these strategies and whether the possible benefits will exceed the losses. Mayer provides the following explanation of not full compliance with the set environmental obligations: as the cost of implementing policy rises, so it is suggested that the actors face growing incentives to delay, dilute or even ignore their legal obligations. In the case of environmental law, the dynamics of the fluctuations of member states' considerations concerning whether to apply the set obligations and bear expenses for the realization of the set strategies is likely to vary spatially and temporary.

The current environmental situation of member states precipitates economic losses and possible benefits. The great extent of the current pollution requires significant expenses on its addressing. Moreover, member states would be obliged to bear higher losses if they changed the manufacturing cycles to reduce the emissions of harmful substances. This means that member states with a significant level of pollution and manufacturing intensity, as well as insufficient economic resources are more likely not to comply, in full extent, with the international environmental agreements and treaties.

Duruigbo claims the existence of strong interdependence between the economic situation in the state and its compliance with the environmental treaties. The researcher stresses on the problem of an ineffective solution for environmental issues as economic because some states have insufficient resources to solve it. However, Duruigbo places greater emphasis not only on the economic benefits or losses, but also on recognition and reputation.

Member states may show the different extent of compliance with the environmental agreements and treaties at different periods of time. This can be explained by different conditions, opportunities and risks across the time and the contexts. This also means that a relevant comparison of the actions of member states can be made only by taking into consideration the existence conditions of these member states.

Assessment of Hypothesis 2

This hypothesis states that less economically stable and advanced a state is, the more the state tends to skirt the stipulations of the environmental treaties because economic turmoil takes precedence over the environmental issues.

The Netherlands

This country has the 6th largest economy in the European area. Notwithstanding the insignificant fluctuations, the countrys GDP is rather high. It is shown in Figure 4.


Figure 4: The Netherlands GDP per capita from 2006 to 2016.

It should be noted that stable economic development and effective environmental policies enable the country to obtain the significant funds from the environmentally related taxes. This is showed in Figure 5.

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Figure 5: The obtained revenues from the environmentally related taxes as a share of GDP.

The country effectively and efficiently uses the obtained financial resources to further address its environmental needs. As shown in Figure 6, the Netherlands is considered to have one of the most resource-efficient economies in the EU.

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Figure 6: Resource-efficiency of the countries' economies in the OECD.

The effective use of resources enables to decrease the interconnection between the economic growth and GHG emissions. This is visualized in Figure 7. It is evident there has been a reduction in GHG emissions by 20 % since 2000.

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Figure 7: Decreasing of the interconnection between the economic growth and GHG emissions in the Netherlands

These figures show that economic stability and successful local strategies entail an increase in the financial receipts into the local budget, their effective allocation and use aimed at decreasing a negative impact on the environment. This chain of interrelationships also explains why the Netherlands has a high rate of compliance with the EU environmental agreements. This country has sufficient financial resources that could be used to implement different environment protection policies.


This country also shows the robust economic development during the previous decade. This is shown in Figure 8.

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Figure 8: GDP per capita of Germany since 2006 to 2016

It should be noted that GDP per capita in Germany is lower than that in the Netherlands. For example, in 2016, German GDP was by 12.6 % lower that the same economic indicator in the Netherlands. However, this GDP is still considered to be rather high. This enables to make significant financial deductibles to address environmental issues.

In the combination of strict technology f regulations, Germany effectively uses its market-based instruments for obtaining financial resources to fund its environmental policies and improve the cost-effectiveness of these policies. The government has worked out and implemented a great variety of taxes on the use of energy resources. The environmentally related tax revenue is shown in Figure 9.

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Figure 9: Environmentally related tax revenue in Germany from 1995 to 2009.

The significant financial recipients and the efficient allocation of resources enable to lower a negative environmental impact. As in the case with the Netherlands, the environmental improvement is shown on the example of GHG emissions. A decreasing in GHG emissions in Germany is shown in Figure 10.

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Figure 10: GHG emission by sector in Germany from 1990 to 2010.

The relative economic stability, effective policies of taxation and the allocation of financial resources enable to collect sufficient funds for the appropriate development and realization of the strategies aimed at complying with the EU environmental agreements.


Greece has been facing a tremendous economic decline since 2008. This is reflected in a significant decrease in GDP per capita shown in Figure 11.

EU member states comply in terms of enviornmental agreements 11

Figure 11: GDP per capita of Greece since 2006 to 2016.

There is a tremendous gap between the economic situation in Greece and the economic situations in the Netherlands and Germany. For example, in 2016, Greece GDP was by 55.5 % lower than that in the Netherlands and by 50 % lower than that in Germany. This means that Greece has a significantly lower ability to allocate financial resources for environmental protection as it has to cope with numerous economic problems beyond the environmental issues, which also should be addressed. It is worth stressing that during the allocation of the resources, the government of the country thoroughly assesses the potential benefits from the support of some particular initiatives. Since the benefits from the environmental protection are viewed as inconspicuous, the resources are directed towards other initiatives. This can be viewed on the example of the development of new anti-forest laws that allow developing numerous settlements within the ecologically sensitive forest areas and legalizing the confirmed law violations. This strategy has an enormous negative impact on the environmental situation and causes paralysis of the national protected area system, due to lack of funding and political support. This can be seen in the level of GHG emissions. Notwithstanding the lowering of the level of CO2 emissions, the level of non-CO2 emissions remains stable. This is shown in Figure 12.

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Figure 12: GHG emissions, including emissions from land-use, land-use change, and forestry (United Nations Climate Change Secretariat n.d.).

Some of the emissions from certain spheres of economic development even increased in the recent years: emissions from the energy industries increased by 26.7 %, land-use, land-use change and forestry increased by 35.5 %, and fugitive emissions increased by 22.2 %. This is presented in Figure 13 (United Nations Climate Change Secretariat n.d.).

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Figure 13: Level of GHG emissions/removals in percent.

These figures show the tremendous worsening of the environmental situation in Greece.

Due to a tremendous economic decline, Greece has insufficient financial resources for the development and realization of different environment protection strategies. Moreover, sharp economic conditions oblige Greece to prioritize the development of other economic spheres. On the one hand, such a priority has a negative impact on nature, but on the other hand, it is considered to be more beneficial in the current situation. That is why the balance tips in Greece shift from compliance with the EU environmental agreements to the adoption of the strategies that could help the country to address the economic crisis.


The precise analysis of the economic situation in the chosen member states supports Hypothesis 2 that assumes that economic stability has an enormous influence on the member states' compliance. The Netherlands has been characterized by the stable economic condition and effective allocation of financial resources during the recent years. The government of this country has necessary abilities to spend funds on the development and realization of environment protection initiatives to comply with the EU environmental agreements.

The economic situation and the efficiency of the financial resources allocation in Germany are worse. The country has lower abilities to provide adequate financing of environmental strategies and comply withe the environmental laws.

The worst situation is in Greece. The country has been suffering from a tremendous economic decline. The government is obliged to allocate resources for other spheres that require financing. At the same time, it tries to support the strategies that could provide greater financial benefits even if they would cause harm to the environment.

Pressure of the Public Opinion

The extent of commitment is also assured by such a critical factor as the interconnection between the domestic and international institutions. The attitudes of domestic institutions can influence the governmental actions and preferences. These institutions are the following: unions of business representatives, legislatures who joined in groups and political parties with the purpose to proclaim of compliance with the set environmental agreements. These people may assist the legislatures in realizing various environment protection strategies introduced in the multinational agreements. This critical factor is considered to be rather relevant to compliance as the politicians tend to make policy decisions, which facilitate their re-election. That is why they are actively seeking for public support of their actions and avoid the implementation of the regulations that contradict public expectations.

Corporatism is viewed as the positive sub-factor of compliance. Mbaye notes that it results in increasing stability and improving the institutionalization of policy networks in the member states. The implementation of multinational agreements is forced by the close and cooperative interrelationships between the governments of the member states and the interest groups. In such a manner, a high level of corporatism is associated with a higher level of compliance. Particularly, manufacturers are usually required to spend significant funds and resources on the implementation of different environmental policies. They may form the strong lobby groups and influence the governments in order to implement less strict regulations than required by the multinational environmental agreements and treaties. This will result in lowering the extent of compliance.

Assessment of Hypothesis 3

State actors can be held to a higher level of accountability to comply with the environmental agreements if the pressure of the public opinion and the role of the public sector, environmental advocates and NGOs are higher in their society.

Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the member states that rely not only on their own resources but also on external support (like the assistance of the governments). It should be noted that the extent of reliance in the chosen member states is different. This is shown in Table 1.

Table 1. The type of support provided by SMEs is aimed at improving their resource efficiency.


/ Country

Its own financial resources

Its own technical expertise

External support


Dont know


49 %

54 %

29 %

1 %

10 %


61 %

53 %

30 %

1 %

5 %


75 %

42 %

14 %

4 %

0 %

The specifics of the external support are provided in Figure 14 (Flash Eurobarometer 381 2013).


Figure 14: The type of external support.

The extent of SMEs' reliance on their own financial resources is lower in the Netherlands and Germany than that in Greece. This means that small- and medium-sized companies in Greece are not accustomed to obtaining support from their governments, non-governmental institutions, etc. At the same time, the external support to SMEs in the Netherlands and Germany is twice higher than that in Greece. That means that SMEs improve the resource efficiency with the help of the third parties.

Figure 15 shows that the citizens of all the analyzed countries clearly understand the seriousness of the climate change problem. At the same time, the citizens of Greece showed the highest preoccupation with this problem. This may be connected with the fact that they do not observe the serious steps to its solution and the high accountability of governmental institutions.

EU member states comply in terms of enviornmental agreements 15

Figure 15: Perception of the seriousness of the problem.

Figure 16 shows that the citizens of all the analyzed countries understand the highest responsibility for tackling climate change lies on national governments, businesses, and industries, as well as the whole EU. It is notable that the citizens of Greece rely on their government to the greatest extent when the citizens of the Netherlands prefer to count on their own forces and abilities. They clearly understand that the protection from the climate change depends on their personal efforts. These efforts are reflected in the sustainable personal use of environmental resources; as well as pressing on the government to perform more actions to address the climate change problem and becoming more accountable.

EU member states comply in terms of enviornmental agreements 16

Figure 16: Perception of responsibility concerning the environmental compliance.

Due to the fact that the citizens of the Netherlands show the lowest preoccupation with the climate change problem because their government has already actively and effectively been working on addressing this issue, their personal activity is the lowest. This is reflected in Figure 17.

EU member states comply in terms of enviornmental agreements 17

Figure 17: Personal accountability.

At the same time, the citizens of Greece observe the deficiencies in the policies of their governments, which leads to sharpening the problem of climate change. Thus, they consider that stricter legislation as the most preferred solution to this issue should be introduced by their government and local authorities. This action may require the institutions to become more accountable. When the citizens of the Netherlands observe the successful realization of environment protection strategies, sharp control and high accountability of the institutions, they clearly recognize that there is no extreme need to increase taxes or introduce stricter legislation. This is also supported by the theoretical researchers that identified that in the member states with a high degree of compliance, the citizens are not interested in a greater sharpening of the policies. These trends are reflected in Figure 18.

EU member states comply in terms of enviornmental agreements 18

Figure 18: Personal views on the improvement of compliance with the environmental agreements.


This investigation provides the understanding that state actors can be held to a higher level of accountability to comply with the environmental agreements if the pressure of the public opinion and the role of the public sector, environmental advocates and NGOs are higher in their society. The governments of the member states, which show a high and medium degree of compliance with the EU environmental agreements (the Netherlands and Germany), clearly recognize the possibility of public pressure as people in these countries understand the enormous relevance of environmental protection and rely the obligation for its fulfillment on themselves. Thus, in the case of dissatisfactory actions performed by the governmental institutions, which would cause poor environmental protection, the society in these countries may pressure the governments. That is why the governments prefer to assist SMEs, adopt sharp regulations, develop and realize environment protection strategies, and allocate sufficient financial resources to them. The citizens of the Netherlands see that their governments and organizations perform some significant steps. Thus, there is no necessity to sharpen the legislation or taxation. The citizens of Greece are also highly concerned about the necessity of environmental protection, but they rely on the responsibility of their government and do not recognize the necessity to perform any actions by themselves, even to pressure the government to improve the situation. The government recognizes the passivity of the citizens and the low possibility of public pressure. Thus, it has chosen not to comply with the EU environmental agreements.

Clarity of Language

The clarity of the language of international treaties also has an immense influence on the level of compliance with the environmental agreements and treaties. Wilkinson agrees with them and adds that insufficient clarity, ambiguous and non-obligatory language can lead to the poor fulfillment of the established policies. Chayes and Chayes explain this interconnection: the broader and more general the language, the wider and the ambit of permissible interpretations to which it gives rise.

Assessment of Hypothesis 4

This hypothesis assumes that insufficient clarity in the language of agreements or reservations and stipulations mandated by the signing parties may undermine the proper implementation of the regulations in the individual states.

The language of modern environmental agreements creates the conditions of the violation of the agreements and treaties, or their fulfillment not in the full extent, as the set obligations are often ambiguous and open to a wide degree of latitude in interpretation. Thus, the compliance with the environmental regulations becomes possible with a minimum disruption to state activities and non-performance of any sufficient measures for the environmental protection. Moreover, the extent of non-compliance stands in direct dependence on the extent of the generalization of the used language.

The example of ambiguity language in the international environmental agreements can be found in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This document contains the phrase returning emission to the 1990 levels in place of stabilizing emission. One of the major controversial statements is common but different responsibilities. This statement does not provide any clear understanding of these responsibilities. Moreover, there is insufficient clarity of such formulations as hazardous wastes, taking into account socio-economic conditions of the parties, and as far as possible and practicable. Other examples can be found in the Kyoto Protocol, where the replacement of one word resulted in the heated debates between the member states. As it is stated in this protocol, developed country [arties shall continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets. It should be noted that instead of the word should that was presented in previous versions of the agreement, the word shall implies that the agreement is legally binding.

The existence of the ambiguity language and its negative influence on the implementation of the EU environmental initiatives can be shown on the example of Case C-161/00 under Article 226 EC Treaty. Germany failed to fulfill its obligations under the Article 5 (4) (a) and point 2 of Annex III to Council Directive 91/676/EEC of 12 December 1991 concerning the protection of waters against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources. However, this directive that contains the phrases amount of livestock manure applied to the land and land applications provides no discernment between the start and completion of the application process. Thus, the determination of maximum permissible amounts of nitrogen, which can be applied to land every year, becomes impossible. The Germany could not bear responsibility for the caused environmental harm in a full extent.

This example shows that the current EU environmental agreements provide the insufficient clarity of the initiatives that should be performed and the ways of their realization. This may result in premeditated or deliberate non-compliance with the environmental regulations, and the avoidance of bearing the responsibility for environmental pollution in a full extent.

Conclusion and Stimulation of Compliance

The current work provided the understanding of the roots of the existing discrepancies in the extent of compliance of the member states with the multinational environmental agreements and treaties. This understanding is based on the precise analysis of numerous theoretical researches and the assessment of ecological, political and economic conditions of the member states (the Netherlands, Germany, and Greece), which show different levels of correspondence. This work identified that the extent of compliance greatly depends on the following factors: current policies (especially their stringency), the structure of government on the local level, economic stability, the pressure of the public, and deficiencies in the language of agreements. The qualitative analysis outlined that the countries that have stringent environmental protection policies, the low level of bureaucracy, stable economic development and the reasonable allocation of financial resources, the high environmental consciousness of the society, and the understanding of the necessity to perform a


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