The Council today reached a general approach on a proposal to amend the Aarhus Regulation. The Aarhus Regulation sets out how the EU and its member states implement the international Aarhus Convention, which aims to guarantee access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters.
Our environment policies and the way they are implemented affect the daily life of citizens. I’m pleased that the agreement on the Aarhus Regulation reached today, will contribute to improving environmental democracy. It will broaden the scope of acts for which a request for review can be introduced and extend the deadlines for such requests. We need a well-functioning system for the members of the public that at the same time acknowledges the specificities of the EU’s legal order and judicial system”, said Svenja Schulze, Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety of Germany.
Svenja Schulze, Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety of Germany
The Council broadly agrees with the Commission’s proposal to extend the scope of the Regulation to administrative acts of general scope. Furthermore, the Council agrees that in cases of administrative reviews, the Aarhus Regulation should apply, not only to environmental law but also to provisions of acts in other policy areas which may contravene environmental law, adopted by EU institutions and bodies.
The Council position also extends the deadlines for the public to request a review and for the EU institutions and bodies to reply, in order to facilitate the process for complainants and ensure a better quality of replies.
The EU implements the Aarhus Convention through Regulation (EC) No 1367/2006. This regulation allows non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to launch proceedings before the European Courts against the decisions of EU institutions and bodies.
In follow-up to a complaint of an NGO in 2008, alleging a failure of the EU to comply with the Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environment matters, the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee concluded, in case C-32 of 2017, that the EU was in non-compliance with Article 9, paragraphs 3 and 4 of the Convention concerning access to justice by members of the public.
As a follow-up, the Council adopted in 2018 a Decision requesting the Commission to submit a study on the Union’s options for addressing the findings of the Compliance Committee and, if appropriate in view of the outcomes of the study, a proposal to amend the Aarhus Regulation.
On 14 October 2020, the European Commission adopted a legislative proposal amending the Aarhus Regulation No. 1367/2006 to allow for better public scrutiny of EU acts affecting the environment. The proposed amendments aim to make it easier to request that the EU institutions review such acts to better ensure environmental protection. The general approach reached today will allow the Council Presidency to start negotiations with the European Parliament, in view of adopting the amended Regulation.