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Delivery of the Green Deal depends on the implementation and enforcement of EU environmental law by Member States and EU institutions alike. To ensure compliance in practice, the EU needs strong enforcement mechanisms that allow civil society to hold EU institutions to account when they fail to deliver for the environment and human health.
This is also a matter of international law. The EU is currently in breach of the Aarhus Convention, which guarantees members of the public access to review procedures to challenge EU decisions that contravene EU environmental law.
We welcome that the Commission has come forward with a proposal to improve the internal review mechanism contained in the Aarhus Regulation and recognise its potential. The removal of the “individual scope” criterion is a positive step in the right direction.
However, the proposal contains significant loopholes which the institutions can use to avoid being held accountable. It also fails to ensure compliance with the Aarhus Convention, which the Regulation seeks to implement. The general approach adopted by the Environment Council on 17 December 2020 fails to address these shortcomings in the Commission proposal. Advice provided recently by the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee (ACCC) identifies several major ways in which the Commission proposal, if not significantly revised, would fail to bring the EU into compliance with the Convention.
This position paper identifies the main deficiencies in the Commission’s proposal and suggests appropriate amendments that would be required (or similar) to ensure accountability and compliance with international law.