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Norm transfer in the EU and Slovenia – evaluating environmental and sustainability transformation


ARIS Code: J5-2562

Project duration: 1. 9. 2020–31. 8. 2024

Project leader: Jerneja Penca, PhD

Participating institute at ZRS Koper: Mediterranean Institute for Environmental Studies

Environmental issues are making their way to the top of the political agenda in the European Union, supported by public expectations and scientific recommendations. As a result, the EU body of environmental law and policy is poised to grow or be subject to an extensive overhaul. This wave of regulation is in need of careful scholarly attention in order to a) generate an accurate account of the process, b) offer a persuasive explanation as to why it occurred and enhance capacity to anticipate the future regulatory framework, and finally, c) offer an informed and critical evaluation of the proposed action, as well as contribute to its improvement.

We start from the premise that to conduct the descriptive and normative analysis of recent environmental regulation, it is necessary to revisit the notions of ‘sustainable development’ and ‘sustainability’. Sustainable development has driven environmental law and policy at all levels since the 1990s. A wide consensus on this was reaffirmed in 2015 with the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Despite its conceptual ambiguity and a legal nature that is difficult to classify, the relevance of sustainable development is well established. For the purpose of this project, sustainable development is understood as a principal societal norm and a legal principle that continues to be valid and exercised in international, EU and national environmental law, as well as in proliferating transnational regulation beyond the state.

However, despite its authority, sustainable development entails an insufficient explanatory and predictive power in the context of current EU regulation. Discourses about ‘green economy’, ‘bioeconomy’, ‘Green New Deal’ and ‘circular economy’ are being invoked in the context of sustainability, but with unclear relevance and implications. There is much scope to complement the depiction of the current EU (and member states’) environmental law with an enquiry into changing paradigms and their legal effects. There is a need to reflect on whether sustainable development has undergone an evolution and progression in time, as well as reflect on whether the gradual implementation of sustainable development has brought about not only a reform of policies, but also a new form of governance.

The project seeks to characterise recent environmental regulation from a temporal and spatial perspective, especially against the notion of sustainability and legal principle of sustainable development. The purpose is to contribute to an understanding of recent EU and transnational regulatory action related to the environment, including its drivers, assumptions and the scope of ambition in relation to sustainability, but also to include excluded voices. 

The project will draw on various methodologies required by contemporary environmental law, including doctrinal methodology, comparative law methodology, empirical law methodologies and methodologies of transnational law, as well as integrating international relations into environmental law (specifically the constructivist approaches to norm diffusion and discourse analysis).