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Unrestricted access to justice for environmental NGOs? - The decision of the ECJ on the non-conformity of § 2(1) Umweltrechtsbehelfsgesetz with Directive 2003/35 on access to justice in environmental law and the Aarhus Convention (Case C-115/09)

Eva Julia Lohse

elni Review 2011, Issue 2,  pp. 98-103. https://doi.org/10.46850/elni.2011.012

In Case C-115/09, the ECJ has decided that – despite their wording – Art. 10a of the Directive on Environmental Impact Assessment (henceforth: Directive), which implements Art. 9(2) of the Aarhus Convention (henceforth: Convention), requires the Member States to provide unrestricted access to justice for environmental NGOs. This looks like a victory for environmental lawyers who have long advocated the introduction of an ‘altruistic group action’ (‘altruistische Verbandsklage’) in environmental matters, as Germany will have to modify its current transposition of the Directive in some way. Considering the tension between desirable effective implementation of environmental law through judicial review and an – unrequested – overly restrictive interpretation of the margin of implementation, the decision demands the authors of this article to analyse closely why “wide access of justice” (Art. 10a (3) of the Directive) could mean ‘unrestricted access’ for NGOs and why it does and should not. The authors also take a closer look at the consequences for (German) procedural law.

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