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The ECJ Rules Environmental NGOs Must Have Access to Justice in Water Law Procedures

Summer Kern and Gregor Schamschula

elni Review 2018, Issue 1, pp. 7-10. https://doi.org/10.46850/elni.2018.002

The Aarhus Convention was adopted in 1998 within the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, following Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. This principle states that “[e]nvironmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens [...]”. The Convention is an international treaty with three pillars, namely (1) Access to Information; (2) Public Participation; and (3) Access to Justice. As the Implementation Guide makes clear: “The three pillars depend on each other for full implementation of the Convention’s objectives.” 
The Convention has as of the date of this publication 47 Parties. Austria ratified the treaty in early 2005, as did the EU. As made clear by the EU’s declaration upon ratification, implementation of the Aarhus Convention partly falls within the competence of the EU and partly within the competence of the Member States. With regards to Art. 9(3) in particular, the EU declared upon approval of the Convention that “the legal instruments in force do not cover fully the implementation of the obligations.” Yet the EU has recognized the drawbacks of this lack of implementation at the EU level repeatedly, and most recently issued a Notice on Access to Justice for the Member States so as to achieve better implementation and consistency within the Member States. 
This article assesses the current developments of implementation with regard to Access on Justice in Austrian Water Law. The ruling in question can certainly be seen as milestone in environmental case law.

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References

  1. Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, 25.6.1998, 37770 UNTS 119.
  2. Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, 13.6.1992, UN Doc A/CONF151/26 (vol I); 31 ILM 874 (1992).
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