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Environmental information — public participation and access to justice

 

SUMMARY OF:

Regulation (EC) No 1367/2006 on the application of the provisions of the Aarhus Convention

WHAT IS THE AIM OF THE REGULATION?

It requires European Union (EU) institutions and bodies to implement the obligations contained in the Aarhus Convention (see summary). The convention gives the public the right to:

  • access environmental information;
  • participate in decision-making;
  • justice on environmental issues.

KEY POINTS

Access to environmental information

EU institutions and bodies must:

  • guarantee public access to environmental information held by them, under the conditions laid down in the regulation;
  • ensure that environmental information is progressively made available and disseminated to the public;
  • organise the information in databases which the public can easily access;
  • update the information and ensure it is accurate and comparable;
  • reply to any requests for environmental information within 15 working days.

Environmental databases or registers must contain:

  • texts of international treaties, conventions or agreements, policies, plans and programmes;
  • progress reports on the implementation of the above;
  • steps taken in proceedings for infringements of EU law;
  • reports on the state of the environment;
  • monitoring data of activities that could affect the environment;
  • authorisations given that could affect the environment;
  • environmental impact studies and risk assessments.

Requests for information may only be refused in specific circumstances, such as ongoing legal proceedings, or if they might harm the environment by, for instance, revealing breeding sites of rare species.

Public participation in environmental decision-making

EU institutions and bodies must provide early and effective opportunities for the public to participate in decision-making regarding environmental plans or programmes. Where the European Commission prepares a plan or programme to be submitted to other EU bodies for decision, it must provide for public participation at that preparatory stage.

EU institutions and bodies must identify the public likely to be affected by a plan or programme and ensure they are informed of:

  • the draft proposal;
  • relevant environmental information;
  • practical arrangements for public participation, including:
    • where further information can be obtained,
    • to whom comments, opinions or questions can be submitted,
    • reasonable time frames to allow the public to prepare and participate effectively in the decision-making process.

A time limit of at least 8 weeks is set for receiving comments, with at least 4 weeks’ notice of any meetings or hearings.

EU institutions and bodies must take due account of the outcome of the public participation and inform the public of any decisions and on what basis they were made, including information on public participation.

Internal review and access to justice

Members of the public, under certain conditions, are entitled to make a request for internal review to the EU institution or body that adopted an administrative act or, in the case of an omission, should have adopted such an act, on the grounds that such an act or omission contravenes environmental law.

A non-governmental organisation (NGO) can make a request, if:

  • it is an independent non-profit-making legal person in accordance with an EU Member State’s national law or practice;
  • it has the primary stated objective of promoting environmental protection in the context of environmental law;
  • it has existed for more than 2 years;
  • the subject matter concerned is covered by its objective and activities.

A request for internal review may also be made by other members of the public, if they can either:

  • demonstrate that their rights are directly affected by the alleged contravention of EU environmental law compared to the public at large; or
  • demonstrate sufficient public interest, supported by at least 4,000 members of the public from at least five Member States, with at least 250 members of the public coming from each of those Member States.

Requests made by such other members of the public must be submitted either by an environmental NGO meeting the criteria outlined above or by a lawyer authorised to practise in an EU Member State.

Such requests must be made within 6 weeks of the administrative act being adopted, notified or published, whichever is the latest.

EU institutions and bodies must publish all requests for internal review as soon as possible after receipt, as well as all final decisions on those requests as soon as possible after they are adopted.

The EU institution or body must act within 22 weeks of the expiry of the 6-week submission deadline. Where the EU institution or body fails to act on a request for an internal review, or when a request is rejected, the NGO or other members of the public may institute proceedings before the Court of Justice of the European Union.

FROM WHEN DOES THE REGULATION APPLY?

It has applied since 28 June 2007. Certain amended rules, principally on access to justice, have applied since 28 October 2021. The rules allowing other members of the public in addition to environmental NGOs access to internal review will apply as of 29 April 2023.

BACKGROUND

For further information, see:

MAIN DOCUMENT

Regulation (EC) No 1367/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 September 2006 on the application of the provisions of the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters to Union institutions and bodies (OJ L 264, 25.9.2006, pp. 13–19).

Successive amendments to Regulation (EC) No 1367/2006 have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

RELATED DOCUMENTS

Directive 2003/35/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 May 2003 providing for public participation in respect of the drawing up of certain plans and programmes relating to the environment and amending with regard to public participation and access to justice Council Directives 85/337/EEC and 96/61/EC (OJ L 156, 25.6.2003, pp. 17–25).

See consolidated version.

Directive 2003/4/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2003 on public access to environmental information and repealing Council Directive 90/313/EEC (OJ L 41, 14.2.2003, pp. 26–32).

last update 03.12.2021

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