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Access to Justice in Environmental Matters: Recent Developments

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Abstract The right of access to justice in environmental matters constitutes one of the three pillars enshrined by the Århus Convention to which the European Union is a Party. This article will examine a recent judgment of the European Court of Justice. Indeed, the latter appears to play an important role in the implementation of this procedural right.

1. FN11) Article 1.
2. FN22) Ludwig Krämer, “The environmental complaint in the EU”, 6(1) Journal for European Environmental & Planning Law (2009) p. 17.
3. FN33) Directive 2003/35 providing for public participation in respect of the drawing up of certain plans and programmes relating to the environment and amending with regard to public participation and access to justice Council Directives 85/337 and 96/61.
4. FN44) Krämer, supra note 2, p. 17.
5. FN55) Commission proposal of 22 October 2003 for a directive on access to justice in environmental matters, COM (2003) 624. See the analysis in comparative law: Nicolas de Sadeleer, Gerhard Roller, Miriam Dross (eds.), Access to Justice in environmental matters and the role of NGOs (2005).
6. FN66) ECJ, 15 October 2009, Djurgården-Lilla Värtans Miljöskyddsförening, C-263/08.
7. FN77) ‘Member States shall ensure that, in accordance with the relevant national legal system, members of the public concerned:having a sufficient interest, or alternatively,maintaining the impairment of a right, where administrative procedural law of a Member State requires this as a precondition, have access to a review procedure before a court of law or another independent and impartial body established by law to challenge the substantive or procedural legality of decisions, acts or omissions subject to the public participation provisions of this Directive.Member States shall determine at what stage the decisions, acts or omissions may be challenged.What constitutes a sufficient interest and impairment of a right shall be determined by the Member States, consistently with the objective of giving the public concerned wide access to justice. To this end, the interest of any non governmental organisation meeting the requirements referred to in Article 1(2), shall be deemed sufficient for the purpose of subparagraph (a) of this Article. Such organisations shall also be deemed to have rights capable of being impaired for the purpose of subparagraph (b) of this Article.The provisions of this Article shall not exclude the possibility of a preliminary review procedure before an administrative authority and shall not affect the requirement of exhaustion of administrative review procedures prior to recourse to judicial review procedures, where such a requirement exists under national law.Any such procedure shall be fair, equitable, timely and not prohibitively expensive.In order to further the effectiveness of the provisions of this article, Member States shall ensure that practical information is made available to the public on access to administrative and judicial review procedures.’
8. FN88) ECJ, 15 October 2009, Djurgården-Lilla Värtans Miljöskyddsförening, C-263/08, § 29.
9. FN99) Ibid., § 38.
10. FN1010) Ibid., § 39.
11. FN1111) Opinions of advocate general Sharpston delivered on 2 July 2009, ECJ, Djurgården-Lilla Värtans Miljöskyddsförening, C-263/08, § 43.
12. FN1212) ECJ, 15 October 2009, Djurgården-Lilla Värtans Miljöskyddsförening, C-263/08, § 45.
13. FN1313) Ibid., § 47.
14. FN1414) Opinions of advocate general Sharpston delivered on 2 July 2009, ECJ, Djurgården-Lilla Värtans Miljöskyddsförening, C-263/08, § 74.
15. FN1515) ECJ, 14 December 1995, van Schijndel and van Veen, C-430/93, § 17; ECJ, 9 December 2003, Commission v. Italy, C-129/00, § 25.
16. FN1616) What the advocate general Sharpston calls in her Opinion the “[European] law principle of effectiveness” (see § 80 of the Opinion prior to the judgment).
17. FN1717) ECtHR, 24 February 2009, L’Erablière A.S.B.L. v. Belgium.
18. FN1818) Ibid., § 43.
19. FN1919) See also for instance: ECJ, 10 September 2009, Plantanol, C-201/08, § 37.
20. FN2020) ECJ, 25 July 2008, Janecek, C-237/07, § 39. See, Jan H. Jans, “Harmonization of National Procedural Law via the Back Door? Preliminary Comments on the ECJ’s Judgment in Janecek in a Comparative Context” in M. Bulterman, L. Hancher, A. McDonnel and H. Sevenster (eds.), Views of European Law from the Mountain (2009) pp. 267–275.
21. FN2121) Nicolas de Sadeleer, Environnement et marché intérieur. Commentaire J. Mégret (2009) p. 142. See also: ECJ, 7 September 2004, Waddenvereniging, C-127/02, § 53.
22. FN2222) Ludwig Krämer, “The European Commission’s Opinions under Article 6 (4) of the Habitats Directive”, 21(1) Journal of Environmental Law (2009) p. 85.
23. FN2323) In this regard, another much-awaited decision of the ECJ should be delivered in the following months. The case at issue concerns the standing of an association for the protection of the environment which seeks to argue a case on behalf of the environment as such rather than on behalf of various individuals living in that environment (ECJ, Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland, C-115/09).

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Affiliations: 1: Queen Mary University of London London UK


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