4. English summary

 

The fourth Meeting of the Parties of the Aarhus Convention in Kishinev

 

The Meeting of the Parties of the UN-ECE Aarhus Convention (MoP) was held from 29 June to 1 July 2011 in Kishinev, Moldavia. OEKOBUERO was present as representative of the NGO coalition EcoForum (http://www.eco-forum.org/) as well as of the environmental law network Justice and Environment (http://www.justiceandenvironment.org/). The main issues of the conference were reports about the various activities and programmes as well as decisions to be taken by the Parties. One central issue was the Compliance Mechanism. Nine states are currently in non-compliance, including the EU Member States UK, Spain and Slovakia (Mochovce case). For those non-compliance with the Convention is also a potential infringement of EU law since the EU is Party to the Convention itself and thus bound by its provisions. Apart from compliance issues the MoP concluded the work programme 2012-2014 including the respective budget and decided upon the mechanism for accession of states outside the UN-ECE area.

 

 

Environmental Senate vs. Infrastructure Senate – A confusing situation

 

The matter of the „Infrastructure Senate“, which was supposed to replace the „Environmental Senate“, has already been discussed in this year’s first NEWSFLASH issue (May 2011). The

Highest Austrian Administrative Court
had ruled in 2010 that the “Environmental Senate”, which is a tribunal attached to the Ministry of Environment, is competent for appeals against permit decisions taken in the course of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) proceedings concerning large transport infrastructure. Before only the
Administrative Court
had been competent for appeals in this context. However it considered itself not to be a “tribunal” in the sense of the European Convention of Human Rights due to its limited review powers and therefore could not provide for sufficient legal protection. Now the Ministry for Transport is trying to implement a new “Infrastructure Senate” situated in the Ministry itself, which is supposed to exclusively decide over those appeals. NGOs criticize that the introduction of this new institution would lead to considerably higher costs than making the existing Environmental Senate competent and that the new body was not independent from the authority (Transport Ministry) which issues the orders that it is supposed to check.

 

Now a new ruling of the

Highest Austrian Constitutional Court
has made the situation even more complicated. In contrast to the
Administrative Court
it ruled that it was not necessary to insert a new body and that the original competence of the
Administrative Court
for appeals against permit decisions concerning large transport infrastructure was sufficient. Neither the Highest Administrative nor the
Highest Constitutional Court
are bound by each others opinions. The situation now has created legal insecurity. Therefore the NGOs demand that the legislator should clarify the situation by making the Environmental Senate competent for appeals against the permit decisions concerning large transport infrastructure.

 

 

Environmental inspections are a prerequisite for effective European environmental law

 

The effectiveness of a law is not only determined by its content and quality but also by the measures taken to enforce it. In the environmental area, in particular as regards industrial installations, environmental inspections have proven to be a very effective means to enforce legal obligations. However there is no overarching (binding) EU Directive governing certain minimum standards for this type of inspections, only a nonbinding recommendation is in place. OEKOBUERO together with its Brussels partner the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) have produced a position paper on this issue demanding binding EU legislation containing the basic requirements for any type of environmental inspection. This concerns for example the independence and qualifications of inspectors, their mandate or the frequency of inspections. Specific questions regarding specific (industry) sectors will however have to be regulated in sectoral legislation.

geändert am 13.06.2012