The likelihood or scale of environmental risks
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Although being located at a geographical position with low seismic activity and within a temperate climate zone, Europe is still afflicted through major natural and technological disasters. Examples for such are earthquakes (e.g. 1999 Greece), floods (e.g. 1973 Spain) or technological disasters (e.g. 1976, chemical plant accident in Seveso, Italy or 1994, Sweden/Finland/Estonia, the ferry 'Estonia' shipwrecked) and major marine pollution incidents (e.g. 2001, off the coast of Denmark: Baltic Carrier). In the future, climate change is presumably increasing the amount of dangerous natural desasters and life-threatening weather conditions even in Europe. Human health and life is threatened through those, through accidents, as well as through fire and accidental emissions. Accidental emissions can be composed of a large number of chemical agents that may have acute or chronic toxic effects, that are carcinogenic, allergenic or may be endocrine disruptors. Unintended dissemination of environmentally alien or genetically modified organisms into the environment can pose unpredictable risks for the native plant and animal population and for human health.
EU-wide co-operation in the field of Civil Protection shall ensure protection for people, environment and property in the event of natural and technological disasters. EU measures support and supplement efforts in disaster prevention on all levels and focus on the rapid co-operation between national civil protection.
Six resolutions were adopted, an evaluation of past ongoing and future activities has been completed and the first Action Programmes (1998-1999) was followed by a five-year Action Programme for the period 2000-2004. On 23 October 2001 the Council adopted a decision establishing a Community mechanism to facilitate reinforced cooperation in civil protection assistance interventions. In case of natural, technological and environmental disasters it is now possible to mobilise the necessary operational resources for immediate, coordinated and efficient support.
In 1996 the Council Directive 96/83/EC (Seveso II Directive) was adopted, which has fully replaced its predecessor, the original Seveso Directive. Important changes have been made and new concepts have been introduced, including a revision and extension of the scope, the introduction of new requirements relating to safety management systems, emergency planning and land-use planning and a reinforcement of the provisions on inspections to be carried out by the EU Member States.
There are two EU Directives and three Regulations on GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Regulation of dissemination aspects is addressed in the "Directive 2001/18 on the deliberate release into the environment of genetically modified organisms" and the "Regulation 1829/2003 on GM food and feed" regulating the placing of food and feed products (containing or consisting of GMOs) on the market and the Directive 90/219/EEC, on the contained use of genetically modified micro-organisms (GMOs).
Under Directive 2001/18/EC, a company intending to market a GMO has to pass through an application, information and authorisation procedure, including a full environmental risk assessment, control through the competent national authority of the Member State, information of the other Member States via the European Commission, assessment through independent Scientific Panels if any objections are raised, proposal of a draft legislative Decision, which the Regulatory Committee decides on and decision through the Council of Ministers if necessary. The public is also informed and has access to data on the internet. Through the whole procedure unintended dissemination of GMOs shall be inhibited and possible unfavorable effects of released species shall be prevented.
According to the Impact Assessment Guidelines of the European Commission, the following key questions are of particular importance when examining the impacts of policy initiatives on the likelihood or scale of environmental risks:
- Evaluating impact on accidents
- Evaluating impact on risk of unauthorised or unintentional dissemination
- Evaluating impact on natural desasters
- EC information: What is Europe doing on Earthquakes?
- The European Commission's site on 'Community cooperation in the field of Civil Protection'
- [http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/seveso/index.htm The European Commission's site on 'Chemical Accident Prevention, Preparedness and Response'
- The European Commission's site on 'Questions and Answers on the regulation of GMO's in the EU'
- IA TOOLS
- JRC: IA TOOLS. Supporting inpact assessment in the European Commission. 
This text is for information only and is not designed to interpret or replace any reference documents.