Adherence to international and EU legal requirements

In environmental law, compliance refers to adherence to international rules for environmental protection through the laws of individual countries. For Austria, these minimum standards result from regulations and directives of the European Union and from international treaties. ÖKOBÜRO ensures that Austria's environmental laws comply with these minimum standards.

International and European standards for environmental protection

The environment knows no national borders. Therefore, international and European agreements on minimum standards for environmental protection are necessary. They create generally applicable rules that all contracting states must adhere to.

Within the European Union, Directives and Regulations provide for common minimum standards for environmental protection in the member states. Furthermore there are crucial international agreements within the environmental sector applicable beyond EU boarders:

  • Aarhus Convention: The Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters
  • Espoo Convention: The Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context
  • Alpine Convention: The Convention on the Protection of the Alps

Austria as well as the EU have committed to comply with these treaties.

European Commission and international committees control the adherence to environmental standards

The European Commission is responsible for monitoring compliance with EU environmental law. In case of infringements, it has the possibility to initiate proceedings against member stated before the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The Aarhus Convention is focused on public involvement in the respective contracting state. The Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee (ACCC) checks whether contracting states meet the requirements of the Convention.

Meeting of the Aarhus Convention in Geneva

The Espoo Convention addresses transnational impacts of large-scale projects. For example in case of nuclear power plants, large dams or infrastructure projects more than on country might be affected. In these cases, persons in the affected countries must as well be included in the permitting procedure. The Espoo Implementation Committee monitors whether these requirements are met.

The Alpine Convention aims at preserving natural ecosystems in the Alpine region. Damages must be prevented beforehand. Persons or “polluters” interfering with the environment shall, in return, take measures for its protection. Natural resources in the Alpine region are to be used carefully and in a sustainable way. The Permanent Committee of the Alpine Convention watches over these aims and principles.

ÖKOBÜRO is committed to compliance with international and EU environmental minimum standards.

ÖKOBÜRO director Thomas Alge and Christoph Walder of WWF Austria at a hearing before the European Court of Justice

Unfortunately, it is not self-evident that states should adhere to international and European rules. Environmental organisations such as ÖKOBÜRO therefore play an important role as watchdogs in the implementation of minimum environmental standards.

We are committed to ensuring that decision-making processes are democratic and that the public can participate in them. We are committed to the implementation of EU environmental law and conventions in Austria, but we also work together with other organisations across borders to improve European regulations and directives.

We carry out studies, organise events and advocate the expansion of participation rights in Austria and other EU countries. If necessary, we take action against violations of the common minimum environmental standards at the EU Commission, before international bodies and before the courts.