This paper examines the role of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as a tool of the EU environmental legislation and an aid to the decision-making process aiming at prioritization of environmental interests over other interests. The EIA Directive has evolved after more than 35 years of implementation while at the same time, EU acquis has grown and new policies have developed along with the broadening of the European integration process. Hence, this contribution provides an overview of the application and effectiveness of the EIA process and of the main challenges that served as indications for further modifications in order to enhance the EIA as an effective instrument of environmental protection. Special emphasis is put on the judicial control imposed by the Court of Justice of the EU in the light of the environmental justice notion and articulation of environmental rights under the EIA Directive(s). The paper concludes with reflections on the environmental considerations raised by the EIA process, arguing that although the full potential of the EIA Directive has yet to be realized, having a separate directive that focuses on the likely environmental effects in the decision-making process ultimately makes a difference.
Keywords: European Union, environmental law, EIA, environmental policy, environmental justice.