A clean and healthy environment has been taken by many to be a ubiquitous good for a long time. The ecological system was assumed to balance itself in a more or less satisfactory way, hence there was no need for public intervention in those matters. That is the reason why public concern about the environment was mainly limited to declarations. 1 Such an attitude has, however, changed over time. The formal cornerstone in the evolution of global concern about the environment was the UN Conference on Human Environment that took place in Stockholm in 1972. The Conference reached an agreement on the universal responsibilities regarding the global environment and produced a large set of recommendations that would guide policies all around the world in this field. Relatively recent environmental disasters such as Seveso (Italy, 1976), Bhopal (India, 1984) and Chernobyl (Ukraine, 1986) have increased global awareness about the impact and damage that can be inflicted on the environment and the natural balance.
This chapter is structured as follows. Section II considers select theoretical issues that are linked with environmental policy. Section III presents foundations, principles and new initiatives in the environmental policy of the EU, as well as the impact of agriculture on the environment. The conclusion is that the environmental policy of the EU is still unconsolidated, but there are opportunities for it to develop in the future.
Public intervention in the field of environment and the control of pollution is limited by at least two obstacles. The first barrier to an effective public intervention rests on the imperfect information that is available to the government. For example, the administration needs data on the possible negative effects of a chemical. This information is often obtained from the affected chemical company. That firm has an incentive to provide incomplete, misleading or even false data to the government in order to influence the outcome of the policy in its own favour. The work of the government is made even more difficult as scientists often disagree on the acceptable or environmentally safe level of emission of pollutants, i.e., up to what level of pollution the environment may be expected to cope with on its own, and the point beyond which harm may start. Therefore, it is often hard for the government