Parliament adopts deal to ensure access to environmental justice for EU citizens 

Press Releases 
  • More types of administrative acts to be covered 
  • Commission to publish implications for state aid by end of 2022 
  • The cost of the review process should be limited 

The amended law broadens access to environmental justice for citizens and brings the EU in line with its international obligations under the Aarhus Convention.

Parliament today adopted the amended Aarhus Regulation negotiated with EU member states to ensure that EU administrative acts are in line with green goals with 554 votes to 127 and 10 abstentions.

Easier access to review

Groups of individuals consisting of at least 4000 citizens including at least 250 from each of five member states, who have specific concerns about certain administrative acts’ compatibility with environmental law, will now also be able to request a review of administrative decisions for their conformity with environmental law. Until now, this was only possible for recognised NGOs.

Additionally, the costs of the review process should be limited in order to enable NGOs and groups of individuals to benefit from more affordable access to justice. To ensure this, EU institutions will only request reimbursement for reasonable costs in such proceedings.

More administrative acts to be covered

Today, it is only possible to request a review of administrative acts, which specifically contribute to the pursuit of environmental policy objectives. With this deal, any administrative act that contravenes EU environmental law may be subject to review, irrespective of its policy objectives.

As far as state aid is concerned, the Commission will publish an analysis of the implications of the findings of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee by the end of 2022 on the need to provide citizens with access to administrative or judicial procedures and if appropriate come forward with measures to address the issues by the end of 2023.

Scope of access to environmental justice widened

Currently, an environmental review of an administrative act can only be requested for acts of 'individual scope' (which directly concern a person). In the future, it will also be possible to request a review for any non-legislative administrative act of 'general scope'. However, this will not apply to the parts of such acts for which EU law explicitly requires implementing measures at EU or national level.

Rapporteur Christian Doleschal (EPP, DE) said: “We have ensured the EU’s compliance with its international obligations. The outcome ensures respect for the EU treaties and provide legal certainty. We clarified that court proceedings should not be prohibitively expensive. We increased transparency. 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 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. While the existing regulation, which applies the Aarhus Convention’s provisions to EU institutions and bodies, has made an important contribution to providing access to justice in environmental matters, the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee (ACCC) has 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 EU in violation of its obligations under international law.