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Aarhus Convention

What's new?

  • As requested by the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee, the European Commission has prepared an action plan on the EU’s compliance with the Aarhus Convention. A separate action plan has also been prepared for case ACCC/C/2015/128 on state aid. The plans have been submitted to the Compliance Committee in July 2022.
  • On 9 September 2022 from 10:00 - 17:00, the Commission is organising a virtual stakeholder meeting open to environmental NGOs, industry representatives (including small businesses) and other interested organisations. Draft agenda is available here. The aim of the meeting is to discuss and receive feedback on the implications of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee findings in case ACCC/C/2015/128 on state aid and on possible options for addressing this issue. The discussions at the meeting is based on the public consultation that is available here. The number of participants is limited 100. In case of higher interest, the Commission services reserve the right to select participants on a first-come first serve basis combined with the need to ensure broad representation from different stakeholder categories. If you wish to attend the meeting, you are kindly asked to communicate the title of your organisation, the interest area you represent (environmental NGO, industry, SME or other), name and email address of the person to attend to the functional email box by 24 August 2022. Invited participants can expect to receive confirmation and connection details on 2 September.
  • The Commission held a virtual meeting on 25 April 2022 with the communicants and observers in Aarhus Convention compliance cases against the EU to discuss the draft action plan on the EU’s compliance with the Aarhus Convention prepared by the Commission. The main points of the meeting are summarised in the minutes, including an annex with the presentation by the Commission and written comments on the draft action plan by one of the communicants and by two environmental non-governmental organisations –EEB,ClientEarth.
  • At the request of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee, the Commission has prepared a draft action plan on the EU’s compliance with the Aarhus Convention. A separate action plan has also been prepared for case ACCC/C/2015/128 on state aid.
  • On 6 October 2021, the European Union adopted an amendment to the Aarhus Regulation No. 1367/2006 to allow for better public scrutiny of EU acts affecting the environment.
  • Political agreement reached on 12 July 2021 on the Aarhus Regulation: Commission welcomes increased public scrutiny of EU acts related to the environment - News release.
  • Commission proposal to amend the Aarhus Regulation and communication on access to justice. News release and frequently asked questions.
  • Roadmap published on access to justice in environmental law, outlining the Commission’s plans to work towards a proposal for a revised Aarhus Regulation, as well as an accompanying Communication.
  • Commission Report published on EU implementation of the Aarhus Convention in the area of access to justice in environmental matters.
  • "Study on EU implementation of the Aarhus Convention in the area of access to justice in environmental matters" is published.
  • Results published on public consultation on "EU implementation of the Aarhus Convention in the area of access of justice in environmental matters".

What is the Aarhus Convention?

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (pdf ~50K) was adopted on 25 June 1998 in the Danish city of Aarhus (Århus) at the Fourth Ministerial Conference as part of the "Environment for Europe" process. It entered into force on 30 October 2001. (For recent up-dates and the follow-up process please have a look at the UNECE Convention website).

The Aarhus Convention establishes a number of rights of the public (individuals and their associations) with regard to the environment. The Parties to the Convention are required to make the necessary provisions so that public authorities (at national, regional or local level) will contribute to these rights to become effective. The Convention provides for:

  • the right of everyone to receive environmental information that is held by public authorities ("access to environmental information"). This can include information on the state of the environment, but also on policies or measures taken, or on the state of human health and safety where this can be affected by the state of the environment. Applicants are entitled to obtain this information within one month of the request and without having to say why they require it. In addition, public authorities are obliged, under the Convention, to actively disseminate environmental information in their possession;

  • the right to participate in environmental decision-making. Arrangements are to be made by public authorities to enable the public affected and environmental non-governmental organisations to comment on, for example, proposals for projects affecting the environment, or plans and programmes relating to the environment, these comments to be taken into due account in decision-making, and information to be provided on the final decisions and the reasons for it ("public participation in environmental decision-making");

  • the right to review procedures to challenge public decisions that have been made without respecting the two aforementioned rights or environmental law in general ("access to justice").

Disclaimer:

The Commission is in the process of updating some of the content on this website in the light of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. If the site contains content that does not yet reflect the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, it is unintentional and will be addressed.