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ClientEarth Communications

24th September 2015

Rule of law
Access to Justice for a Greener Europe

People now have the right to know if governments are breaking laws

The Court of Justice of the EU has ruled that people have the right to know if their government is breaking environmental laws, including waste and water quality law.

ClientEarth Lawyer Anaïs Berthier said: “The EU Court made a huge leap forward for environmental protection, when it rejected the Commission’s demand to keep confidential studies on EU countries breaking environmental law. This ruling limits the presumption of confidentiality that the Commission and the General Court wanted to stretch even further. It is enormously positive for EU transparency and openness, and essential to protect people and the planet.

“However, there is still work to do, as the ruling does not cover some of the most serious breaches of environmental law – those which result in infringement proceedings by the Commission. This means the worst law-breaking by EU governments risks being kept confidential, and the infringement proceedings remain completely opaque. Negotiations can go on for years behind closed doors, denying people the right to hold governments to account when they break environmental laws.”

Now, the General Court must examine the studies which did not result in an infringement proceeding, and decide whether the Commission’s demand for confidentiality is founded. We expect the results in late 2015 or early 2016.