Leading environmental groups call on EU governments to stand up for the rights of citizens

Picture of young active demonstrators with red flag

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB), ClientEarth and Justice & Environment have today called on Member States to reject a proposal from the Commission that would prevent NGOs from gaining access to justice in the EU courts.

The three environmental groups are calling on Member States to oppose the Commission’s proposal to prevent access to environmental justice for its citizens at the EU level on environmental questions.

The EU and its member states are Parties to the international Aarhus Convention, which guarantees the public rights to information, participation and justice on environmental issues.

In March 2017, the Convention’s Compliance Committee found the EU to be failing to comply with the Convention’s requirements due to the very limited possibilities for NGOs and the public to have access to justice at the EU level [1].

Last week, the Commission adopted a formal proposal that the EU should block those findings when they are presented for adoption by the Convention’s governing body, the Meeting of the Parties (MoP), in Montenegro in September [2].

The letter signed by the leaders of the three environmental groups states:

“For the EU to abuse its voting power to secure a rejection of the Committee’s findings of non-compliance in the one case where the EU is the subject of those findings would set a dangerous precedent and send a stark message to its citizens, other non-EU Parties to the Convention and the rest of the world that the EU considers itself above the rule of law.

It also states:

“The legal argumentation in the Commission proposal is so weak as to be an embarrassment. The Compliance Committee itself, in a clarifying note issued on 30 June (attached), has refuted several of the Commission’s key arguments, having to explain in one place some basic principles of how international treaty law works. But the Commission’s argumentation is not just weak: it is highly misleading, even to the point of verging on dishonesty.

“Behind the argumentation and spin, it is clear that what is at issue here is a bureaucratic institution putting its own interests above the interests of the European public it is supposed to represent, in a shameless attempt to resist public accountability.

“In summary, it is crucial that EU Member States reject the Commission’s proposal, support endorsement of the Committee’s findings and commit to amending the relevant EU legislation without delay to bring it in line with the Convention.”

Notes for editors 

[1] Open statement by the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee regarding its findings on communication ACCC/C/2008/32 (part II) concerning compliance by the European Union

[2] Background: EEB Press Release on announcement of Commission proposal on Aarhus Compliance, 30 June 2017

Leading environmental groups call on EU governments to stand up for the rights of citizens
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