‘Sustainable development’ as a criterion for the interpretation of Article 6 of the Habitats Directive

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Series Details Vol.16, No.2, March-April 2006, p73-88
Publication Date March 2006
ISSN 0961-0405
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Article 6(4) of the Habitats Directive requires a weighing up of environmental and economic interests in order to allow for deviation from valid environmental standards. This provision has to be interpreted in the light of the tasks and aims of the European treaties, especially in the light of sustainable development (SD). It is not only a political aim, but was also introduced in the European treaties in 1997 as both legally binding task and goal. This paper develops a comprehensive interpretative understanding of these provisions and their consequences for the application of European environmental law. SD is usually understood as being one aim amongst others and having three dimensions of SD (ecological, social and economic) of equal weight. This concept of equal weight contradicts the idea of a common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR), which is an essential part of SD. The CBDR requires that SD has de facto different meanings in different member states according to their economic development. Therefore, Article 6 of the Habitats Directive may only be applied in those areas of the Community having a development lag.

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