The Environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedure foresees that the information on the environmental effects of a specific activity is used to support the decision on whether to give a project consent, and has the ability to ensure no more than that the decision taken is an informed one. As one of the principle groups of actors in the procedure, it can be concluded that the effective involvement of the public serves to guarantee, at least in part, the effectiveness of the whole EIA procedure. This paper therefore addresses the following question: how can the effectiveness of provisions for and practices concerning public participation in the EIA procedure be improved, with specific reference to Italy and the UK? We start by examining the literature and general public involvement practices in EIA to establish what the ‘goals’ of involving the public in the EIA procedure are, and which ‘factors’ contribute towards achieving effective public participation. Indicators for both the ‘goals’ and the ‘factors’ are then identified and used to analyse the legislative provisions and procedures of each country in relation to their implications for effective public participation. Two case studies for each country are also analysed in relation to the same set of indicators. As a final step ‘profiles’ of public participation in EIA for each country are created and broad recommendations based on the opportunities for improving the effectiveness of public participation formulated.