Political agreement on the Aarhus Regulation: Commission welcomes increased public scrutiny of EU acts related to the environment
The Commission welcomes the provisional political agreement reached yesterday between the European Parliament and the EU Member States in the Council on amending the Aarhus Regulation that will allow for increased public scrutiny of EU acts affecting the environment. The Commission had proposed the amendment in October 2020, following its commitment under the European Green Deal to improve access to administrative and judicial review at EU level for citizens and environmental non-governmental organisations.
Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “I welcome the amendment to the Aarhus Regulation provisionally agreed between co-legislators. It will strengthen the capacity of European civil society and a wider public to exercise scrutiny over decisions affecting the environment. This is an important element of the checks and balances in the environmental rule of law to ensure that the European Green Deal brings a lasting change.”
The agreed amendment will improve the possibilities for the civil society to request that EU institutions review their acts with the aim to ensure better environmental protection and a more effective climate action. Environmental non-governmental organisations, as well as individuals whose rights are impaired will be able to ask for such scrutiny. In addition, any members of the public acting together in the public interest will be able to ask for scrutiny if such request is supported by at least 4000 Europeans from at least five Member States, with at least 250 members of the public coming from each of those Member States.
The amended Regulation will further improve the openness, accountability and consistency of the Union’s environment and climate actions and will support the Commission’s objective to achieve transformative change under the European Green Deal, by further empowering the civil society to contribute to this change.
Following the provisional political agreement on the most relevant changes, the reviewed Aarhus Regulation has to be now approved and adopted by the European Parliament and the Council before it can enter into force.
The proposal put forward by the Commission amends Regulation (EC) No 1367/06, adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in 2006 when the EU became a Party to the Aarhus Convention.
The aim of the Aarhus Convention is to guarantee three important aspects of environmental governance: access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters. The Compliance Committee under the Convention has previously raised certain issues as regards EU obligations concerning access to justice in environmental matters. The amendment agreed today addresses those concerns.
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