We must bring the EU in line with its international obligations under the Aarhus Convention and ensure that EU administrative acts are aligned with green goals, say MEPs.
With 61 votes in favour, 7 against and 10 abstentions, Members in the Committee for Environment, Public Health and Food Security (ENVI) adopted a report which aims to ensure EU’s compliance with its international obligations under the Aarhus Convention, while fully respecting the Union Treaties.
The adopted changes aim to guarantee legal certainty for all actors involved, including third parties such as companies and public authorities, as well as to facilitate the integration of environmental objectives across a wide range of EU policies.
In the report, MEPs agreed to significantly broaden the types of administrative acts that can be reviewed. Not only acts with an individual scope would be covered, but also general acts, as well as acts which contravene environmental law rather than just those taken under environmental law. Moreover, MEPs insist that the costs of the review process should be limited, to enable non-governmental organisations to benefit from more affordable access to justice.
MEPs underline that not only non-governmental organisations, but also members of the public, which meet the criteria set out by the regulation, should be entitled to make a request for internal review to an EU institution or body that has adopted, or should have adopted, an administrative act on the grounds that such an act or omission contravenes environmental law.
Rapporteur Christian Doleschal (EPP, DE) said: “I am proud to say that our compromise was broadly supported. The report will ensure the Union’s compliance with its international obligations. Our solutions ensure respect for the EU treaties and provide legal certainty. We clarified that court proceedings should not be prohibitively expensive. We increased transparency. The new text gives businesses and public authorities the right to be heard. We averted the danger of an “actio popularis” where any citizen can put a stop to major EU projects and decisions via an administrative review that was intended to be a purely supplementary legal remedy. All in all, this was a very positive outcome."
The vote in plenary is expected to take place during the May plenary session, followed by the start of inter-institutional negotiations.
The EU as well as its 27 Member States are Parties to the 1998 Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters. The existing regulation, which applies the Aarhus Convention’s provisions to EU institutions and bodies, has until now made an important contribution to providing access to justice in environmental matters. Nevertheless, the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee (ACCC) expressed concerns that the EU does not fully comply with all requirements of the Convention.
The updated regulation aims to ensure that a formal examination of the Aarhus Regulation by the Meeting of the Parties (the Aarhus Convention’s governing body) in October 2021 will not hold the Union in violation of its obligations under international law.