2012 EES Conference

Environmental evaluation in the EU: a simple idea and a hard practice in a complex context

When developing new environmental policies it is important to evaluate those that have already been adopted. However, this simple idea is difficult to apply, especially in the complex governance context of the EU. Recently, emphasis on retrospective evaluation has increased in the EU. Nonetheless more work is needed to create a well-established culture of policy evaluation in the EU. Environmental policy evaluation in the EU is still quite unsystematic, mostly ad hoc and lacking methodological rigour as well as relevance with respect to their actual use by national and local authorities, NGOs and interest groups. With a view to improving the capacity of evaluation in the environmental sector it is key to build a stronger community of European environmental evaluators.

In response to this challenge HIVA – KU Leuven organised the first European Environmental Evaluators Network (EEEN) forum in 2012, an annual event where actors commissioning, using and producing environmental evaluations can come together and share insights and experiences. In Leuven a diverse and motivated crowd addressed environmental evaluation from various perspectives: demand side expectations, side effects and methodological challenges. At the 2013 EEEN forum to be held in Stockholm and hosted by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency the central theme will be the evaluation of sustainability transitions.

In the format of a panel and roundtable session, key persons from the EEEN introduce and discuss the objectives, role, products, connections and resources of the EEEN.

Presentation by Per Mickwitz

(Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) – per.mickwitz@ymparisto.fi)

In his presentation ‘Environmental evaluation in the EU: a simple idea and a hard practice in a complex context’ Per Mickwitz illustrates that to date neither the scale nor the quality of the EU’s evaluation efforts have matched the difficulties of the task. Critical to improve the state of environmental evaluation in the EU is to build a stronger community of European environmental evaluators.

Intervention by Lisa Eriksson

(Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) – Lisa.Eriksson@naturvardsverket.se)

Lisa Eriksson makes a case for collaboration and mutual learning in her intervention. To make the argument the latest in-depth evaluation of the Swedish environmental objectives serves as an illustration.

Intervention by Lieven De Smet

(Research Institute for Work and Society (HIVA – KU Leuven) –lieven.desmet@kuleuven.be)

In his intervention Lieven De Smet points out that at the 2012 EEEN forum an overwhelming majority of the participants wanted the EEEN to continue to develop and take forward the issue of environmental evaluation in Europe through promoting and facilitating exchange. To this end the EEEN aims to build a stronger community of European environmental evaluators via an annual forum, a website, the formation of working groups around certain issues, an online networking and exchange platform, etc.


The discussion with the audience touched upon several practical and strategic issues that pertain to  a (new) network: objectives, products and resources. The relationship of the EEEN with the European Evaluation Society (EES) and the various national evaluation societies was discussed. Linking up with these initiatives more closely is believed to provide more leverage to reaching the objectives of the EEEN as this opens up a broader resource base (knowledge, expertise, administrative capacity, …). Also, the use and feasibility of various tools/products that the EEEN wants to develop has been discussed. The development of initiatives and tools that facilitate and foster communication and networking was deemed more critical than e.g. compiling a toolbox of standard tools used in evaluations. The discussion also touched upon the development of a sustainable organisational structure for both the network as a whole and the development of specific products. Related to this the issue of funding was also tackled. Finally, the upcoming EEEN forum in Stockholm was touched upon.


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