GENERAL INFORMATION ON ACCESS TO JUSTICE IN ENVIRONMENTAL MATTERS IN HUNGARIAN, POLISH AND SLOVAK LANGUAGES
Visegrad 4 Aarhus Center

EU environmental policy is one of the most advanced in the world. Yet the EU has not legislated on access to justice (AtoJ) to challenge all infringements of environmental laws, as provided in Art. 9(3) of the Aarhus Convention. The issue is important for impacts on environmental protection and means to ensure accountability and good governance. The Applicant and its partners are beneficiaries of a project funded by the EU aiming at enhancing access to environmental justice in 8 selected Member States. This project includes: - Analysis of the main laws enabling AtoJ - Development and dissemination of awareness-raising materials for judiciary, bodies responsible for administration of justice, public administrations, public interest lawyers - Preparation and delivery of trainings on AtoJ.

The mission of J&E is to strive to improve EU environmental legislation and its implementation for the benefit of environment and people across Europe. This project fulfills the mission of J&E by allowing closer coordination and cooperation in a key area, access to environmental justice in the V4 region. This project will help maintain the Visegrad 4 Aarhus Center established by J&E and its V4 members by the funding from the International Visegrad Fund. Regional cooperation is key to the functioning of the applicant, being a network of public interest environmental law NGOs. Cooperation in the V4 region is even more crucial, given that the core (founding) NGOs of the applicant are from the V4 countries and still the most active members are from this geographical subregion of Europe.

Milestones of the Project

The year 2018 is a special one in the life of the Aarhus family. We celebrate the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Convention, or as we say, its 20th Birthday. Countries parties to the Convention also celebrate this important date, e.g. in Hungary, the Deputy Ombudsman for Future Generations initiated a cooperation with J&E’s Hungarian member organization EMLA to hold a joint session on the achievements of the Aarhus Convention in Hungary.

This date also served as a good occasion to hold the Hungarian workshop of the V4 Aarhus Center project (back-to-back with the first Hungarian training in the EARL project (www.clientearth.org/access-justice-greener-europe/)).

The meeting was held on 21 November and approximately 50 persons attended it, mainly coming from the regional environmental competent authorities all across the country, but the judiciary, the academia and the civil sector were also represented.

Read more about the event here:

www.emla.hu/hu/content/%C3%BCnnepi-rendezv%C3%A9ny-az-ombudsman-hivatal%C3%A1ban-az-aarhusi-egyezm%C3%A9ny-elfogad%C3%A1s%C3%A1nak-20

The first volume of the Newsletter of the project is available online in English.

The second volume of the Newsletter of the project is available online in English.

The barriers and challenges related to access to justice in environmental matters were the subjects of a seminar organized by ClientEarth in the last week of January in the Office of the Ombudsman in Warsaw. It was the first training undertaken within the project “Access to justice for a greener Europe” in Poland.

“The issue of providing citizens with access to courts has been the most underrated part of the Aarhus Convention for years,” said Dr Jerzy Jendrośka, a member of the Aarhus Convention Committee, during the first part of the meeting devoted to international standards in the field of access to justice in environmental matters. He stated that it is one of the main challenges which all Member States of the European Union are facing nowadays.

The voice of Dr Hanna Machińska, Deputy Commissioner for Human Rights, was slightly more optimistic. In her view, the Aarhus Convention became part of European Union law thanks to the CJEU rulings regarding the application of the Convention’s provisions. She also emphasized that the Aarhus Convention, through the rulings of the CJEU, affects domestic law.

The speakers in the second part focused mainly on identifying barriers to access to justice in environmental matters.

Legal advisor Agnieszka Warso-Buchanan presented barriers to access to courts on the basis of limited possibilities to challenge legal acts regulating air quality issues in the Visegrad Group countries as well as in Bulgaria and Romania.

The meeting initiated a series of eight training sessions on access to courts in matters related to environmental protection.

Read more about the event here:

https://www.clientearth.org/first-polish-seminar-on-access-to-justice-organised-at-the-ombudsmans-office/

https://www.pl.clientearth.org/pierwsze-warsztaty-na-temat-dostepu-do-sadow-za-nami/

The public toolkit on the conditions of legal standing in environmental matters is available in English on the website of Justice & Environment. The respective national language toolkits are available on the websites of the project partners:

Czech

Hungarian

Polish

Slovakian

On February 28, 2019, VIA IURIS carried out the first of a series of training sessions that are planned for the judges of administrative colleges of Regional Courts in Slovakia in 2019. This first training took place at the Regional Court of Žilina. Apart from lawyers from VIA IURIS (Imrich Vozár), we were glad to receive as a speaker the Czech judge Mgr. Bc. Aleš Roztočil LL.M. from the Supreme Administrative Court of the Czech Republic. The seminar focused predominantly on the new Administrative Court Procedural Code which enshrines very broad rights of the public to access the justice system in environmental matters and implements nearly the whole 3rd pillar of the Aarhus Convention. The seminar proved that it is very necessary and even appreciated by judges to have educational activities in this topic and discuss the numerous questions the new procedure code brings up.

Take a look at the photos of the seminar here

 

CASE STUDYS

Czechia

Link to case study (in Czech, with an English summary)
The project is co-financed by the Goverments of Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia through Visegrad Grants from International Visegrad Fund. The mission of the fund is to advance ideas for sustainable regional cooperation in Central Europe.

Odkaz na případovou studii (česky, s anglickým souhrnem)
Projekt je spolufinancován vládou České republiky, Maďarska, Polska a Slovenska prostřednictvím Visegrádských grantů z Mezinárodního visegrádského fondu. Posláním fondu je prosazovat myšlenky udržitelné regionální spolupráce ve střední Evropě.

Poland

Link to case study (in Polish, with an English summary)
The project is co-financed by the Goverments of Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia through Visegrad Grants from International Visegrad Fund. The mission of the fund is to advance ideas for sustainable regional cooperation in Central Europe.

Link do analizy sprawy (w języku polskim, ze streszczeniem w języku angielskim)
Projekt jest współfinansowany przez rządy Czech, Polski, Słowacji i Węgier z grantu Wyszehradzkiego w ramach Międzynarodowego Funduszu Wyszehradzkiego. Celem funduszu jest rozwój zrównoważonej współpracy regionalnej w Europie Środkowej.

Slovakia

Link to case study (in Slovakian)
Link to case study (in Slovakian, with an English summary)
The project is co-financed by the Goverments of Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia through Visegrad Grants from International Visegrad Fund. The mission of the fund is to advance ideas for sustainable regional cooperation in Central Europe.

Odkaz na prípadovú štúdiu (v slovenskom jazyku)
Odkaz na prípadovú štúdiu (v slovenskom jazyku s anglickým zhrnutím)
Projekt je spolufinancovaný vládami Českej, Maďarskej, Poľskej a Slovenskej republiky prostredníctvom vyšehradských grantov z Medzinárodného vyšehradského fondu. Poslaním fondu je podporiť myšlienky udržateľnej regionálnej spolupráce v strednej Európe.

We thank the International Visegrad Fund for its trust and support in this project.

Partners of the project are:

VIA IURIS (VI, Slovakia)

Environmental Management and Law Association (EMLA, Hungary)

Client Earth Poland (CE, Poland)

Contact person
Csaba Kiss
info@justiceandenvironment.org
Phone +36 1 322 8462

Our Belgian member organization Inter-Environnement Wallonie changed its name and accordingly, its logo, too. Farewell, IEW - welcome, Canopea! https://www.canopea.be/

J&E presented a statement on national environmental and climate planning at the Public Participation Task Force Meeting of the Aarhus Convention (https://unece.org/info/Environmental-Policy/Public-Participation/events/369122). You can read the statement here or on the website of J&E (www.justiceandenvironment.org).

Litigation success regarding Austrian wolves: Hunting permits no longer enforceable in Tyrol In connection with a hunting permit for a pair of wolves, the Provincial Court of Tyrol (Austria) has upheld an appeal by J&E member ÖKOBÜRO, WWF Austria, Umweltdachverband and Naturschutzbund Austria. It also recognized the suspensive effect of an appeal against the hunting permit for a wolf. By decision of August 22nd, 2022, the Provincial Court of Tyrol overturned the decision of the Tyrolean provincial government on the killing of a pair of wolves. According to the contested decision, the male wolf and the female wolf would have been allowed to be shot in three hunting sub-areas in the East Tyrolean municipalities of Lavant, Tristach and Nikolsdorf until October 31st. Now the Provincial Court of Tyrol has referred the matter back to the authority for a new decision. The Provincial Court based its decision on the fact that it could not guarantee that only the wolf individuals causing damage and not mistakenly another wolf was shot. In fact, another wolf has been identified in the area in question. In all likelihood, this is a puppy of the wolf pair in question and thus the first proven reproduction in the alpine area of Austria. In addition, on July 29, 2022, another wolf was released for shooting for a limited period until the end of October. ÖKOBÜRO, WWF; Austria, Naturschutzbund and Umweltdachverband have achieved with their complaints that this wolf may not be shot for the time being – at least as long as the complaint procedure is ongoing. This ensures that no shooting can take place on the basis of illegal permits. Consequently this means that the hunting permits concerning the three wolves are no longer enforceable. Since there was no wolf population in the Austrian Alpine region until now, the cancellation of the hunting permit for the two parent animals is a success for the protection of the species!

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Espoo Implementation Committee considers lifetime extensions of Czech nuclear reactors At its 53rd session in May 2022, the Espoo Implementation Committee considered a complaint by J&E member ÖKOBÜRO and GLOBAL 2000 (Friends of the Earth Austria) regarding the lifetime extension of the Czech nuclear power plant Dukovany. The complainants had criticized the lack of a transboundary environmental impact assessment when prolonging the licences for several reactors for an unlimited time. At its meeting, the Committee concluded that this prolongation constituted a major change to an activity listed in appendix I to the Convention on transboundary impact assessment (Espoo Convention) that was likely to cause a significant adverse transboundary impact. It thus began a Committee initiative on the matter as the case gave reason to assume non-compliance by the Czech Republic with its obligation under the Convention. Within this initiative, it will also examine the application of the Espoo Convention regarding the planned extension of two reactors of the Temelín NPP in Czechia. For further information see the Report of the Implementation Committee: https://unece.org/sites/default/files/2022-06/ece_mp.eia_ic_2022_4_advance_edited.pdf

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Read our latest report: Anti-SLAPP legislation in the US and Canada (http://www.justiceandenvironment.org/fileadmin/user_upload/Publications/Anti_SLAPP_legislation_in_the_US_and_Canada.pdf) For more information, visit our website or the one of CASE (www.the-case.eu).

News from Austria Strengthened participation rights for environmental organisations (May 2022) The Supreme Administrative Court of Austria (VwGH) made clear that environmental organisations may claim compliance with environmental protection requirements under EU law irrespective of the violation of their subjective rights. This is not limited to the objectives of Art. 11 of Directive 2011/21/EU on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment. Therefore, national legislation, implementing EU legislation in the field of the environment, as well as directly applicable provisions of EU environmental law can be invoked by environmental organisations.

Today, on 23.06.2022 the Extraordinary Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention elected the first ever Special Rapporteur of the Rapid Response Mechanism. J&E congratulates to Mr. Michel Forst for his election and wishes him success as well as offers its cooperation to him. (The Special Rapporteur will stand up against the persecution, penalization and harassment of environmental human rights defenders.)

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Court verdict: Czech government must urgently meet its climate commitments The Municipal Court in Prague today upheld the Czech Climate Litigation lawsuit in a landmark decision and ordered the state to urgently take the necessary measures to slow climate change in accordance with its obligations under European and international law. The courts in the Czech Republic have done so for the first time in history. The evidence showed that the Czech Republic's Climate Protection Policy, the government's strategy determining the Czech Republic's pace of greenhouse gas emission reductions, is not sufficient in terms of contribution of the Czech Republic to goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. If every country behaved in this way, crossing tipping points in the Earth's climate system would become inevitable, which would have a major negative impact on the ecosystem as a whole and on the international community, which includes the people of the Czech Republic. The plaintiffs convinced the court that the measures taken by the state so far are not sufficient to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 compared to 1990. State authorities are obliged to have a plan of precise and complete measures towards this goal, which is currently not the case. According to the court, the defendants have not provided legitimate reasons for their inaction. The court concluded that the objective of the Paris Agreement to keep the global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius is not legally binding, however the aforementioned national contribution is, and cannot be continually avoided. Avoiding fulfillment of the climate goals would threaten the plaintiffs' constitutionally guaranteed rights. The Court expressly finds that if the state had fulfilled its climate obligations, there would still be climate impacts, however they would be smaller. It also stated that the Czech Republic cannot absolve itself of its climate responsibility by reference to its relatively small contribution to global climate change. The plaintiffs were the Czech Climate Litigation - a civil association of over 260 citizens, joined by the municipality of Svatý Jan pod Skalou, which is struggling with the effects of ongoing climate change, and other plaintiffs, including foresters and farmers. The plaintiff group was represented in the proceedings by Frank Bold lawyers.

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News from Latin America on the Escazu Agreement The first meeting of the Conference of the Parties will take place between 20 and 22 April 2022 at ECLAC headquarters in Santiago (Chile) in a hybrid format. The Escazu Agreement is the Latin American and Caribbean equivalent of the Aarhus Convention. The Access Initiative and the World Resources Institute will organize a side event at the COP1. Please join TAI and WRI and partners UNEP / USEPA/ OGP in this event. Please register here to participate and the link to join: https://usepa.zoomgov.com/meeting/register/vJItf-GgpjwoE9ggeOBm9QKlxUwGDsoQtXg

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