UNUnited Nations Economic Commission for Europe

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UNECE Aarhus Convention takes hold in the European Union


Geneva, 31 October 2003 -- To strengthen environmental democracy and promote the public's involvement in environmental decisions throughout the European Union, the European Commission has adopted three legislative proposals to put the Aarhus Convention, negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), into practice.

If the European Commission's proposals are adopted, the provisions of the Aarhus Convention will apply in full to the European Union's bodies and institutions. The European Commission is also proposing a directive on access to justice in environmental matters and a decision on formally ratifying the Aarhus Convention.

In effect, this means that European Union bodies and institutions will have to respond to requests from the public for specific environmental information. They will also have to make information on the state of the environment available to the public at large. Moreover, the public will have a say in the preparation of environmental policies. According to the European Commission's proposals, the public will also be able to haul EU bodies and institutions before the European Court of Justice if they do not comply with environmental legislation.

Kaj Bärlund, Director of the UNECE Environment and Human Settlements Division, welcomed the announcement of these proposals by the European Commission as the Aarhus Convention marked the second anniversary of its entry into force. He said that it was a good day for Europe's people and for Europe's environment, as these new proposals would encourage ordinary citizens to take responsibility for protecting their environment and to hold the authorities accountable for their actions or inactions.

The UNECE Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters was adopted in the Danish city of Aarhus in 1998. It came into force on 30 October 2001 and now has 26 Parties: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Tajikistan, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkmenistan and Ukraine.

For more information, please contact:

Kaj Bärlund
UNECE Environment and Human Settlements Division
Palais des Nations
CH - 1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

Phone: + 41 (0) 22 917 23 70
Fax: + 41 (0) 22 907 01 07
E-mail: kaj.barlund@unece.org

Jeremy Wates
UNECE Environment and Human Settlements Division
Palais des Nations
CH - 1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

Phone: + 41 (0) 22 917 42 26
Fax: + 41 (0) 22 907 01 07
E-mail: jeremy.wates@unece.org or public.participation@unece.org

Web site: http://www.unece.org/env/pp/

Ref: ECE/ENV/03/P23