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ClientEarth Communications

5th February 2018

Rule of law
Access to Justice for a Greener Europe

Access to Justice update from ClientEarth and Justice & Environment – February 2018


New initiatives on Access to justice from Brussels

Two interesting and very welcomed initiatives pushing for more access to justice in environmental matters have been initiated by Brussels.

One initiative by the European Commission is adding a new access to justice provision in the drinking water directive proposal. The directive is being reviewed and complements the water framework directive about which the CJEU has recently ruled in the Protect case that environmental NGOs should have legal standing in water law proceedings.

The new provision is described by the European Commission as being in line with Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and to implement the Aarhus Convention. It would allow citizens and NGOs to access judicial review of the decisions taken by Member States under the directive.This is a new attempt from the Commission to ensure access to justice is provided at national and sectoral level.

A similar provision had been included in the National Emission Ceiling directive proposal when it was being reviewed in 2016 and had eventually been rejected by the Council.
The provision in the drinking water directive proposal still needs to pass the test in the European Parliament and the Council to remain in the final directive.
We hope that the recent Protect ruling from the CJEU will incentivise MEPs and Member States to support the provision proposed by the Commission.
That would be a significant step towards addressing the lack of access to justice for members of the public in certain Member States resulting from the absence of a directive on the matter.

Another discussion is taking place within the Council on how to ensure the EU, as a party in its own right, complies with the access to justice provisions of the Aarhus Convention.
This year the EU was found in violation of these for not providing access to the CJEU to members of the public. The Council is considering ways to address the situation, including by relying on the Article 241 TFEU procedure to request that the Commission propose an amendment to the Aarhus Regulation, which applies the Convention to EU institutions. An unprecedented move in environmental matters.

Two EU institutions asking one another to comply with the Aarhus Convention at two different levels, one at national, the other at EU level. Let’s hope they will react in a positive way to their respective requests. And let’s enjoy the moment while it lasts!

Anaïs Berthier, Senior Lawyer, ClientEarth

Our Analysis

The Council, the new guardian of the EU Treaty

The Council is considering relying on Article 241 TFEU to request the European Commission to propose to amend legislation on access to justice. Read the full analysis by Anaïs Berthier.

Commission report highlights lack of EU commitment towards ensuring collective redress for environmental protection

The Commission has just published a report on the uptake by member states of its Recommendation on Collective Redress. Read the full analysis by Anne Friel.

Supreme Administrative Court of Poland denies local resident the right to challenge air quality program

The Supreme Administrative Court of Poland upheld the decision of the Regional Administrative Court denying standing to a resident, to challenge the air quality program adopted by the Silesian Regional Assembly. Read the full analysis by Kamila Drzewicka

Slovakia debates local issues on access to justice

Via Iuris held its first national workshop on access to justice. An opportunity to raise local barriers and debate with professionals. Read the report and see the pictures.

Successful kick-off meeting of the Access to justice  project in Hungary

Hungarian Environmental management and law association held a first successful workshop in Budapest about access to justice in environmental matters. Read the report and see the pictures.

We are happy to welcome the recent adoption of regional agreement to protect right of environmental defenders in Latin American and the Caribbean. Read the UN press release.

The Project

Access to justice is a fundamental means through which citizens and NGOs can support the implementation and enforcement of laws and policies to protect the environment.

The goal of this ATOJ-EARL project is to achieve  "Access to justice for a greener Europe". It strives to enhance access to justice in environmental matters by providing information, training and support for the judiciary, public authorities and lawyers of eight European member states.

ClientEarth and Justice and Environment are implementing this project with the financial support of the European Commission's LIFE instrument.

Contact :

Visit our project webpage