On April 1st the new Act on European Citizens´ Initiatives was introduced in Austria to be in compliance with the correspondent European regulation (Regulation (EU) No 211/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 February 2011 on the citizens’ initiative). Generally this new instrument is a great transnational direct democratic tool but Austria's legislator decided to make things difficult both for organizers of an European citizens´ initiative and for the signatories:
The main critique of many civil society organizations in Austria on this recent law is the obligatory delivery of ID numbers (passport or identity card) for the legally valid support of an European citizens´ initiative. This fact was criticized because many people do not carry around their passports or id-cards all the time, and even if someone does, it is not self-evident to give away that number to an organizer of an citizens' initiative “on the street”. So it is really hard to gather enough valid signatures.
Secondly through the mentioned Act high costs arise for organizers because of a very difficult certification procedure for online collection systems.
In March 2012 the ACCC carried out its decision on a complaint the ÖKOBÜRO had filed with the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee (ACCC). The complaint concerned different breaches of the Aarhus Convention by Austrian legislation, but due to the complexity the ACCC focused its decision on two main facts:
In its decision the ACCC ruled that Austria has to incorporate public participation rights in all (!) environmental acts, such as the Water Act, Nature Conservation Acts and many more, to be in compliance with the Aarhus convention's Art. 9 para. 3.
Furthermore the Federal Act on Environmental Information (UIG) has to be adapted, as well as corresponding acts of the Laender to establish compliance with the Aarhus convention's Art. 4 para. 7 as well as Art. 9 para. 4.
In its new communication on this important topic the EC carried out detailed and elaborate guidelines on how to improve implementation of European environmental law within member states' national laws. Especially environmental inspections are one of the most important tools to ensure that European environmental law is applied in a consistent way. Therefore a legally binding framework directive on minimum criteria for environmental inspections is essential. Furthermore the public, provided with sufficient rights on access to information and access to justice, could act as a watchdog. To ensure these objectives measures concerning the implementation and enforcement of EU environmental law need to be a main objective of the 7th Environment Action Programme.
Justice and Environment once more prepared a number of high quality publications on many different topics, such as: Climate protection, health, transport, EIA/SEA, Aarhus, waste or environmental liability. As a new feature every edition of 2012's newsflash will give a brief overview on selected publications. In this edition publications concerning climate protection and energy efficiency are presented:
ÖKOBÜRO together with Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Austria, WWF, VIER PFOTEN and Justice & Environment criticized several provisions in its statement concerning the proposal for the amendment of Austria's Act on Environmental Impact Assessment. In practice the amendment does neither imply sufficient public participation within screening procedures nor often claimed reductions of threshold levels. Instead it implies drawbacks of neighbour rights, extended dispossession proceedings and the possibility to avoid EIA proceedings.
geändert am 18.06.2012