Access to justice at national level related to measures implementing EU environmental law (communication)

EESC opinion: Access to justice at national level related to measures implementing EU environmental law (communication)

Key points:

The Interpretative Communication will bring further benefits of increased certainty and clarity to decision makers within national courts and administrative structures, and to businesses and citizens if its dissemination is effectively rolled out. Consistency in Access to Justice across the EU is an essential factor underpinning the single market and the consistent implementation of EU law rights in the Union, and provides necessary clarity and certainty for markets and investors.

The EESC calls for overarching and binding EU legislation necessary to achieve consistency and completeness in implementing Access to Justice throughout the Union, to complement this welcome step on Access to Justice by this Communication.

For the Communication to have real effect, it needs to be complemented by training and education at Member State level across the intended audiences, and in particular for the judiciary, administrative review bodies, and citizens.

The Commission needs to prioritise sufficient resources and funding to effectively support such plans, as do the Member States.

This Interpretative Notice needs to be kept up to date. Timely updates to the content, and refreshers to the intended audience, are essential to reflect developments in the jurisprudence of the CJEU. A dynamic and updated tool for civil society, public administrations and judiciary bodies should be explored.

Feedback from expert communities and gaps and omissions in the Communication for Member States should be prioritised and addressed also, including consideration on how to address areas where there are gaps in the current jurisprudence of the Court.

The EESC highlights the limitations of the Interpretative Communication in failing to include the findings of the independent Compliance Committee of the Aarhus Convention (ACCC). This important and useful body of work can complement the Commission's Communication, and support decision makers and citizens with Access to Justice and should be referenced. The EESC supports the Aarhus Convention and its full implementation by and within the EU. It is therefore essential that the findings on compliance of the ACCC, appointed by the Parties, are fully endorsed by the Parties.


How can citizens and civil society organisations have a national court examine their case when they think a measure breaks the EU environmental law? Access to justice at national level is paramount for the implementation of the EU environment law. The European Commission published in April 2017 a set of guidelines building on the UN Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters as well as on a number of rulings of the Court of Justice of the European Union. These guidelines aim at clarifying the conditions and criteria for access to justice, while contributing to the enforcement of the EU environmental law and strengthening the rule of law and legal certainty.

The European Economic and Social Committee is currently working on an opinion aiming at reflecting the views of civil society organisations on these guidelines.


United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, Findings and recommendations of the Compliance Committee with regard to communication ACCC/C/2008/32 (part II) concerning compliance by the European Union, 17 March 2017
Convention d'Aarhus sur l'accès à l'information, la participation du public au processus décisionnel et l'accès à la justice en matière d'environnement, 25 juin 1998