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What is the Charter?

The European Union is based on fundamental rights, democracy and the rule of law. Perhaps the best manifestation of these rights, freedoms and principles is the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, or as we simply refer to it, the Charter.

One may ask why we need this legal instrument, but these days the answer is clearer than ever: The Charter enshrines the fundamental rights people enjoy and as a modern and comprehensive instrument, it protects and promotes people’s rights and freedoms in the light of changes in society, social progress and scientific and technological developments.

It also protects and promotes people’s rights and freedoms in the era of the triple planetary crisis, especially amidst the challenges of climate change. The Charter applies in conjunction with national and international fundamental rights protection systems, including the European Convention on Human Rights.

And how is this useful for me?

The provisions of the Charter are addressed to the institutions and bodies of the EU in all their actions and the national authorities when they are implementing EU law.

But can individuals rely on the Charter’s provisions?

Indeed, because the Charter applies when EU countries adopt or apply a national law implementing an EU directive or when their authorities apply an EU regulation directly. The Charter has its own implementation mechanism through EU institutions and national bodies.

What about climate rights?

The baseline is the respect for the values and rights enshrined in the Charter, especially its Art. 37 that aims at integrating a high level of environmental protection and the improvement of the quality of the environment into the policies of the Union.  

Our focus is exactly how people can rely on the Charter in the climate and energy-related policies of the EU and how to raise the awareness of the target audiences to be able to apply legal instruments including strategic litigation in order to defend their Charter rights.

Actual project activities will consist of researching EU legal instruments, collecting data on Member State level implementation of energy and climate policies, training the target groups (CSOs, legal practitioners etc.) at training sessions and having national events with ombuds institutions, and having EU level events with the participation of journalists and EU institutions in charge of the application of the Charter.

Awareness raising and training activities will be focused on procedural rights stemming from the Charter and the Aarhus Convention and will increase the knowledge of the target groups of EU law, the available remedies and their application in climate and energy policy matters (strategic and project level decision-making).

They will also increase the ability of the members of the target groups to develop a litigation strategy and communicate and advocate for the enforcement of Art. 37 of the Charter, in order to promote a high level of environmental protection with special regard to climate and energy matters.

The project started on 1 March 2024 and will finish on 28 February 2026.

The first 6-8 months of the project will be dedicated to the research and preparation of a study on EU level climate and energy plans, programs and projects that have a relevance for the Member State level policy and decision-making. In the middle of the project’s 2-year period, a number of training, awareness raising and knowledge exchange events will be held in the 8 project countries such as Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia. The project will be completed by an EU-level online closing conference where key messages and lessons learned will be shared with the members of the public.

All outputs of the project will be available at the website of the main beneficiary Justice and Environment (J&E).  

News will be shared on both the website and the Facebook page of J&E.

 

The project is funded
by the European Union.

The project team consists of the coordinating beneficiary Justice and Environment and 8 other environmental legal NGOs that are all (except the Polish partner organization) members of J&E.

Association Justice & Environment, z.s.

J&E was established in 2003 during the enlargement process of the European Union. J&E is a European network of environmental law organizations. Currently J&E has 15 member organizations in total from Austria, Bulgaria, Czechia, Croatia, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Ukraine. All member organizations are either entirely focused on environmental law or it is one of their topic areas. J&E lawyers are seasoned environmental law experts, experienced within their national legal systems, familiar with challenges faced by their respective communities and well aware of the EU legal framework. Its membership base allows J&E to bridge EU and national issues of environmental law and participation. Patterned on this, J&E analyses the EU system of participation in environmental matters, mainly in a form of comparative legal studies and proposes policy improvements / recommendations to decision-makers.

Webpage: www.justiceandenvironment.org

Responsibilities in the project:

J&E acts as a coordinating beneficiary, taking care of the day-to-day management of the project’s activities, including reporting and financial management.

Team of the project:

Csaba Kiss, Coordinator, info@justiceandenvironment.org, phone +36 1 322 8462

Lubica Mockova, Financial Manager, finance@justiceandenvironment.org, phone +420 774 130 730

BlueLink, Bulgaria

BlueLink is a foundation, registered in public interest in Bulgaria with the mission to uphold civil society, democracy, shared European values and environmental sustainability. BlueLink strives to its purpose by supporting internet networking, public interest journalism, policy advocacy and research. BlueLink’s main fields of activity are in:

  • maintaining the BlueLink Civic Action Network – a networking, coordination and information exchange hub at www.bluelink.net;
  • supporting civil society participation, access to information and justice, and stakeholder engagement through strategic use of internet and other activities;
  • operating a virtual newsroom to publish Evromegdan (in Bulgarian) and BlueLink Stories (in English, for Central and Eastern Europe) as e-magazines for ethical journalism in public interest; and
  • fostering research and analysis of internet freedom, technological and social change, civil society, democracy and sustainable development, and shaping policies that foster them.

Webpage: https://www.bluelink.net/en

Team of the project:

Pavel Antonov, pavelan@bluelink.net

Plamen Peev, plamen@bluelink.net

Polina Slavcheva, polina@bluelink.net

Nina Leseva, nina@bluelink.net

Zoya Borisova, zoya@bluelink.net

Environmental Management and Law Association, Hungary

Environmental Management and Law Association (EMLA) is a non-profit non-governmental organization working in environmental law and environmental management on national, European and international levels. The main activities of EMLA are public interest environmental legal advice and litigation, environmental legal research, consulting and education, and carrying out of environmental management projects. EMLA is a founding member of The Access Initiative in addition to being a member of the European Environmental Bureau and the Nuclear Transparency Watch. The EMLA Foundation established by the EMLA Association is active in environmental education.

Webpage: www.emla.hu

Team of the project:

Csaba Kiss, drkiss@emla.hu

Ágnes Gajdics, agnes.g@emla.hu

Zsuzsanna Berki, berkizs@emla.hu

Estonian Environmental Law Center (EELC) was founded in 2007 by an environmental NGO Estonian Fund for Nature (ELF) and 3 public interest environmental lawyers. It is an independent expert organization. EELC’s aim is to shape environmental law rules and their application in Estonia in a manner that takes due account of public interests (health and well-being of citizens, biodiversity).

Webpage: www.k6k.ee

Responsibilities in the project:

  • Polling of national public opinion on adaptation to climate change and related climate rights;
  • Preparation of a legal study on climate rights and their domestic enforcement;
  • Organization of national events related to the previous activities;
  • National level communication of the project.

Team of the project:

Tarmo Treimann, tarmo@k6k.ee

Estonian Environmental Law Center, Estonia

Estonian Environmental Law Center (EELC) was founded in 2007 by an environmental NGO Estonian Fund for Nature (ELF) and 3 public interest environmental lawyers. It is an independent expert organization. EELC’s aim is to shape environmental law rules and their application in Estonia in a manner that takes due account of public interests (health and well-being of citizens, biodiversity).

Webpage: www.k6k.ee

Team of the project:

Tarmo Treimann, tarmo@k6k.ee

Triin Jaadmaa, triin@k6k.ee

Marilin Palts, marilin@k6k.ee

Merilin Kaalma, merilin@k6k.ee

PIC, Slovenia

Legal Informational Centre for NGOs is a non-governmental organisation established in 1997. Primary working areas of PIC can be described as legal protection of the environment and human rights (rights of vulnerable groups as disabled, foreigners and asylum seekers, women victims of violence, socially underprivileged individuals etc.). PIC is active on strategic level (through advocacy and lobbying in legislative procedures, civil initiatives etc.) and on operative/implementation level by offering legal counseling and legal support to individuals and NGOs. One of the main activities is providing comments and recommendations during the adoption of important laws and strategic documents in the field of environmental protection and spatial management and proposing systemic changes in particular towards a better inclusion of the public in decision-making processes and improvements of access to effective legal remedies. PIC is striving for a consistent and correct application of the Aarhus Convention, especially regarding effective exercise of the right to participate of NGOs and the wider public in environmental procedures. In this regard PIC is focusing also on influencing court procedures by filing legal remedies and advocating for their effectiveness. PIC is one of thirteen Slovenian NGOs who have obtained a status of a NGO acting in the public interest in environmental matters on national level.

Webpage: https://pic.si/

Team of the project:

Aljosa Petek, aljosa.petek@pic.si

Luka Strubelj, luka.strubelj@pic.si

Ökobüro, Austria

OEKOBUERO is the alliance of the Austrian Environmental Movement. It is comprised of 17 Austrian organizations engaged in environmental, nature and animal protection like GLOBAL 2000 (Friends of the Earth Austria), FOUR PAWS, Greenpeace and WWF. OEKOBUERO works on the political and legal level for the interests of the environmental movement.

Webpage: www.oekobuero.at 

Team of the project:

Birgit Schmidhuber, birgit.schmidhuber@oekobuero.at

Marlene Schaffer, marlene.schaffer@oekobuero.at

Climate Rights

The concept of “climate rights” has been introduced by the DACE project to capture a variety of rights and legal mechanisms, i.e., existing and nascent types/classes of rights at international, EU and national level with relevance to climate change, defined as follows:

all substantive and procedural rights in connection with climate change related matters”.

As an operational definition, its main purpose is to inform our study of climate rights as vehicles for just and engaging society in which climate justice and protection against the consequences of climate change are high on the agenda for the governments, businesses and the society as a whole. This is a broad and overarching definition which could come across political, social and civil society domains and can be used for engagement of key target groups of the project like climate activists, environmental associations, other interested citizens and local communities, but also bar associations, students, journalists. “Climate rights” in the sense of the DACE project thus does not only include rights in a narrow legal sense, such as human or social rights, but encompasses legal mechanisms that enable individuals and organisations to protect their rights, to demand climate action or hold governments and businesses accountable. Even if we don’t claim coining a new concept of the legal doctrine, we could still test its practical application, and stir a debate about it with national and EU stakeholders. While testing the application of the concept, we aim to raise the awareness of target groups and general public of climate rights (in general terms or about specific rights related to or affected by climate change: e.g., right to life, health, home, dignity); to test the readiness of target groups to exercise such climate rights already now, or to explore the existing practice of exercising such rights; and to mobilise target groups’ support for introducing a stronger and more comprehensive system of climate rights that could be also defined as rights to climate protection[1].

[1] Kahl. 2022. A human right to climate protection – Necessary protection or human rights proliferation?

Charter Rights

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Project Actions

Seven environmental legal NGOs from Austria, Bulgaria, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia joined forces under the umbrella organisation Justice and Environment to focus on climate and energy policy making and decision-making and on how to apply Charter rights in order to make sure the public has a seat at the table in these procedures.

The baseline is the respect for the values and rights enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, especially its Art. 37 that aims at integrating a high level of environmental protection and the improvement of the quality of the environment into the policies of the Union, but also other such rights including Art. 41 Good administration, Art. 42 Transparency, and Art. 47 Justice should be taken into due account.

We want to focus on a specific area: climate and energy policy, and within this area, raise the awareness of the target audiences to be able to rely on the EU Charter rights in the climate and energy-related policies of the EU.

Actual project activities will consist of researching EU legal instruments, collecting data on Member State level implementation of policies, training the target groups (CSOs, legal practitioners etc.) at training sessions and having national events with ombuds institutions and EU level events with the participation of EU institutions and journalists.

Awareness raising and training activities will be focused on procedural rights stemming from the EU Charter and the Aarhus Convention and will increase the knowledge of the target groups of EU law, the available remedies and their application in climate and energy policy matters (strategic and project level decision-making).

They will also increase the ability of the members of the target groups to develop a litigation strategy and communicate and advocate for the enforcement of Art. 37 of the EU Charter, in order to promote a high level of environmental protection with special regard to climate and energy matters.

Where can you meet us?

During the course of the project, partners in Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia will hold a number of events and meetings where you can join us and get insight into our work relating to the enforcement of Charter rights.

To find out where and when exactly we are having our events, please follow the project partners’ websites where information is published on recent and upcoming meetings.

Also, follow the Facebook and X pages of Justice and Environment to get info on our project’s progress.

Links to the project partners’ related webpages: see the Contacts and Links section below

J&E’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/justiceandenvironment

J&E’s X page: https://twitter.com/justenvinet 

Coordinating beneficiary:

Csaba Kiss, Project Manager, info@justiceandenvironment.org

Communications and media relations:

Antonia Saric, Communications, communications@justiceandenvironment.org

Links to the project partners’ related webpages:

Austria

Bulgaria

Croatia

Czechia

Estonia

Hungary

Poland

Slovenia

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