Commission launches targeted consultation on new procedure for access to justice in environmental matters in relation to State aid decisions

Today, the European Commission launched a targeted consultation to seek feedback from the business community and public authorities on a proposed new procedure aimed at enabling public access to justice for specific Commission decisions on State aid measures, for challenges based on grounds related to alleged breaches of EU environmental law.

In particular, the Commission is seeking feedback on the impact of the proposed procedure on investment decisions and project implementation by the business community, and more generally on the roll-out of EU policies. The targeted consultation will also gather information on the cost implications and administrative burden of the new procedure for businesses and Member States.

Under the envisaged new procedure, eligible members of the public, such as environmental non-governmental organisations, would be able to ask the Commission for an internal review of a State aid decision for alleged violations of EU environmental law. The eligible applicants would have a right of redress before the EU Courts. The new procedure will give due consideration to the special characteristics of State aid control and its effectiveness, including in terms of duration. It will consider notably the role State aid plays for the European Green Deal, as well as for ensuring economic and financial stability for the internal market in times of crisis.

The targeted consultation is addressed to the business community and the relevant public authorities dealing with State aid and environmental matters. They can submit their comments on the proposed new procedure by 6 September 2024.

This consultation follows up on the 2021 findings of the Aarhus ConventionCompliance Committee concluding that the EU is in breach of the Aarhus Convention, because the public cannot challenge State aid decisions adopted under Article 108(2) TFEU where these decisions allegedly breach EU environmental law. On 17 May 2023, the Commission adopted a Communication identifying options to follow up on these  findings, with a view to creating a new procedure. A call for evidence was launched by the Commission on 30 May 2024.

The Commission intends to publish a Staff Working Document assessing the scope, content and likely impacts of the initiative in the second quarter of 2025, which will summarize the information received in the targeted consultation.