In an open letter sent on April 10 to EU environment ministers gathered in Bulgaria, ClientEarth and the EEB call on the EU to comply with the Aarhus Convention, the UN’s flagship treaty on environmental democracy.
ClientEarth and EEB have asked the Council to request the Commission for a revision of the Aarhus regulation, to make sure members of the public can go to EU courts to protect the environment.
ClientEarth lawyer Anais Berthier said: “At the moment, citizens and NGOs cannot defend their environment in EU courts. This breaches the Aarhus Convention, which the EU signed. The European Union must adopt the necessary measures to bring the EU in compliance with international law and show its commitment to uphold environmental democracy.
“To this end, we call on the Council to request the Commission to submit a proposal amending the Aarhus regulation. We have already waited too long.”
Last year, following a complaint lodged by ClientEarth in 2008, the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee found that the European Union was in breach of the Aarhus Convention due to very limited possibilities for the public to have access to justice at the level of EU institutions.
During the Meeting of the Parties of the Aarhus Convention, which took place in September 2017, the EU refused to endorse these findings, severely damaging its credibility and undermining the democratic rights and values enshrined in the Convention. During the MoP, the EU has nevertheless committed to explore ways to comply with the Convention. However, seven months after the MoP and 2 months away from the Convention’s 20th anniversary, no measures have been adopted.
EEB Secretary General Jeremy Wates added: “The Aarhus Convention is here to guarantee basic democratic rights and give people a fuller say in protecting the environment. The EU institutions must comply with these rules and be held accountable for their decisions, like any other democratic power.
“This year, we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Convention. The EU must show it takes it seriously to maintain its credibility as a bloc that upholds the rule of law.”