Environmental Liability in Austria – Lack of practice and the case Kwizda

With the Environmental Liability Directive (ELD), the EU seeks to contribute to a common framework for the prevention and remediation of water, soil and biodiversity damage (so-called environmental damages) to a reasonable cost for society. The Austrian legal framework had environmental liability provisions integrated into its environmental acquis already before the ELDs entry into force. These pre-existing regimes, which are still in force are vividly applied in practice by the competent authorities. Whereas no damage has been reported AND handled under the environmental liability regime so far - even though the application of the EU environmental liability regime could lead to a better handling of environmental damage and to more inclusive procedures. The case Kwizda in the Lower Austrian city of Korneuburg shows how reluctant administrative authorities are with respect to the damage remediation according to the Environmental Liability system.


Access to information constitutes a human right: ECtHR expands right of access to public documents for NGOs

Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights grants anyone the right to free expression. Moreover, it also protects the freedom to receive information. The European Court of Human Rights has defined that rule in more detail in recent years: The state may not prevent others in the dissemination of information. Furthermore, the public has a right to obtain information of general interest. Therefore, the State is also obliged to become active and to provide official information. In a recent judgment, the Court has further strengthened this right: Due to the exercise of the function of a social watchdog NGOs have a right of access to information from government institutions, even though the information must first be collected and processed. Reasons for refusing a request need to be “relevant and sufficient” in the specific circumstances of the case. This decision counteracts restrictive ECJ jurisdiction, which recently stated that a refusal can be based on general presumptions without making a specific and individual examination of the documents concerned (ECtHR 28.11.2013, No. 39534/07).

geändert am 17.01.2014