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Assessment of the certain effects of plans and programmes on the environment (SEA)



Directive 2001/42/EC — Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive (SEA)


  • It aims to ensure a high level of environmental protection and that environmental considerations are taken into account when preparing, adopting and implementing plans and programmes.
  • It promotes sustainable development by ensuring that environmental assessment is carried out of certain plans and programmes likely to have significant effects on the environment.


  • The public plans and programmes covered by the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive are subject to an environmental assessment during their preparation and before their adoption.
  • This directive applies to the public plans and programmes (as well as their amendments) which have been prepared and/or adopted by a competent authority and which are subject to legislative, regulatory and administrative rules:
    • plans and programmes which are prepared for specific sectors (agriculture, forestry, fisheries, energy, industry, transport, waste management, water management, telecommunications, tourism, town and country planning and land use) and which set the framework for development consent of projects under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive;
    • plans and programmes for which an assessment is required under Articles 6 and 7 of the ‘Habitats’ Directive;
    • plans and programmes which set the framework for future development consent of projects other than those under the EIA Directive (not limited to the sectors listed above) and which EU countries have identified as likely to have significant environmental effects. EU countries can determine this either through case-by-case examination or by specifying types of plans and programmes or by combining both approaches.
  • The directive sets out a procedure and a number of steps to be followed when assessing a plan or programme to which it applies. These steps include:
    • scoping;
    • preparing the environmental report;
    • public consultation and participation;
    • decision-making; and
    • monitoring.
  • The directive also makes subject to a screening procedure:
    • plans and programmes different from those listed in Article 3(2), but which set out the scheme for future development consent of projects, as well as
    • plans and programmes: which determine the use of small areas at local level and minor modifications to plans and programmes, but only if they are likely to have significant environmental effects.
  • EU countries’ margin for discretion is limited by the significance criteria in Annex II, when it comes to screening certain plans and programmes. It is also restricted by the overall objective of the directive — which is to ensure a high degree of environmental protection.
  • Plans and programmes the sole purpose of which is to serve national defence or civil emergency, and financial or budget plans and programmes are not covered by this directive.
  • A specific set of rules applies to the early stages of decision-making when plans and programmes are being developed, i.e. when:
    • preparing a report on the likely significant effects on the environment;
    • informing and consulting the public and the environmental authorities;
    • conducting transboundary consultations with potentially affected EU countries;
    • identifying measures to address and monitor significant environmental impacts.
  • The environmental report must contain, among other information, the following:
    • the contents of the plan or programme and its main objectives and links to other relevant plans and programmes;
    • the existing environmental situation and its likely development if the plan or programme is not implemented;
    • any existing environmental problems which are relevant to the plan or programme, specifically those relating to zones in the Natura 2000 network;
    • the measures envisaged to prevent, reduce and offset any significant adverse effects on the environment;
    • a description of how the assessment was carried out;
    • the envisaged monitoring measures;
    • a non-technical summary of the above information.
  • The draft plan or programme and the environmental report must be made available to the authorities responsible for environmental issues and to the public. The authorities and the public must have the opportunity to express their views on the draft plan or programme at an early stage and in sufficient time before it is adopted or submitted to the legislative procedure.
  • The EU country responsible for preparing the plan or programme is required to send a copy of it, together with a copy of the environmental report, to other EU countries:
    • where it considers that the plan or programme is liable to have environmental effects on the territory of those other EU countries;
    • at the request of those other EU countries.
  • The environmental report, the opinions expressed by the relevant authorities and the public and the results of any transboundary consultations must be taken into account by the competent authority during the preparation of the plan or programme and before it is adopted.
  • When a plan or programme is adopted, the EU country responsible must inform all parties concerned which have been consulted and make available to them:
    • the plan or programme as adopted;
    • a statement summarising how environmental considerations have been integrated and the environmental impact report;
    • the opinions and the results of consultations;
    • the reasons for choosing the plan or programme as adopted;
    • the monitoring measures undertaken.
  • The environmental assessment carried out under the SEA Directive does not remove the obligation to conduct the assessment required under the EIA Directive, or to meet any other EU legal requirements.
  • EU countries may provide for coordinated or joint procedures in order to avoid duplication of environmental assessment in respect of plans and programmes for which the obligation to carry out assessments arises simultaneously from this directive and from other EU legislation.
  • From 21 July 2006 and every 7 years after this date, the European Commission will continue to submit reports on the application of the directive to the European Parliament and the Council.


It has applied since 21 July 2001. It had to become law in the EU countries by 21 July 2004.


For more information, see:


Directive 2001/42/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 June 2001 on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment (OJ L 197, 21.7.2001, pp. 30-37)


Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (OJ L 206, 22.7.1992, pp. 7-50)

Successive amendments to Directive 92/43/EEC have been incorporated in to the original document. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

Directive 2011/92/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment (OJ L 26, 28.1.2012, pp. 1-21)

See consolidated version.

Report from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions — On the application and effectiveness of the Directive on Strategic Environmental Assessment (Directive 2001/42/EC) (COM(2009) 469 final, 14.9.2009)

Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament under Article 12(3) of Directive 2001/42/EC on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment (COM(2017) 234 final, 15.5.2017)

last update 11.10.2018