In a letter sent on April 13th, the European Parliament, the Council of the EU, and the European Commission were urged to amend EU access to justice law and comply with international law.
For over a decade the EU has been breaching the Aarhus Convention by not providing sufficient means to the members of the public to challenge environmental wrongdoings before EU courts.
The Aarhus Convention is a multilateral agreement which allows citizens to access environmental information for a more reliable and transparent environmental governance. It aims at introducing a reactive and trustworthy relationship between civil society and governments, empowering public participation in the decision making process, and guaranteeing access to justice regarding environmental matters. Adopted by governments in 1998, The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention establishes a number of rights of the public (individuals and their associations) with regard to the environment. This convention is considered to be a good tool to encourage public participation and transparency.
The Convention entered into force on October 30th, 2001, but reports showed EU non-compliance toward Aarhus regulation. In fact, as found by the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee (ACCC), the EU has breached Article 9(3) by not allowing NGOs and members of the public to hold EU institutions accountable for unlawful decisions that impact public health and the environment, like authorising fossil fuel subsidies, green-lighting harmful pesticides or allowing overfishing. The ACCC, found in an advice dating back to 2017 that the EU must increase possibilities for members of the public to protect the environment in EU courts, in order to comply with the treaty.
Following the recent legislative proposal to amend the EU rules on the application of the Aarhus Convention, in February 2021 the ACCC clarified that the proposal is still not strong enough to ensure compliance with international law.
The ACCC advised that the following amendments are needed for the EU to comply with the Aarhus Convention:
For these reasons, The Good Lobby wrote—on behalf of the legal community—an open letter to the European institutions , urging the EU to follow the ACCC’s advice and ensure the revision doesn’t leave the EU in only partial compliance with the Aarhus Convention.
The next and final meeting between the rapporteur and the political groups’ shadow rapporteurs is scheduled Friday 16th of April. The report is expected to be voted upon at the ENVI committee meeting on April 22 and go through a plenary vote in May.
9 February 2021