What will the new Hungarian law on administrative courts bring for access to justice?  / 15 January 2019

After much protest from the opposition parties in the Parliament, the Government’s overwhelming majority voted in favor of a new law (Act of Parliament No. 130 of 2018 on Administrative Courts) that will set up separate courts for adjudicating in administrative matters. On 12th December 2018, the main hall of the House of Parliament in Budapest was the scene of a loud and lively protest by opposition MPs before voting on a number of bills submitted by the Orban Government. Read more

Aarhus+20 and the first Hungarian training in the EARL project / 21 November 2018

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.

There were a number of memorial events throughout the year, most prominently the event in May in Rome, organized by the Italian Ministry of Environment, Land and Sea and the June special session of the Working Group of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention in Geneva.

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.

As the organization of the event started, it quickly became obvious that what else could serve better to kick-off the series of 6 training sessions to be held in Hungary under the auspices of the EARL project than this occasion. All ingredients were present: a prestigious venue (the Ombudsman Office), prominent presenters (the Deputy Ombudsman for Future Generations, a former and a current ACCC member, university professors and practicing environmental lawyers) and a large audience (50+ participants).

The meeting was held on 21 November in Budapest 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.

Presentations in the morning segment of the day were largely about bringing up memories on how people remember the process leading to and surrounding the adoption of the text of the Convention. Witnesses of past who were even involved in the drafting of the first textual version of the Convention shared their memories on the events long gone.

The afternoon session was the actual training component of the meeting. As a starting point, a sociologist described why people want to participate and what patterns can be identified in participatory processes. Legal and practical barriers of access to justice were identified, together with provisions of the Convention and adjacent case law that helps members of the public participate in environmental decision-making. An EU and Visegrad 4 outlook on how other countries regulate and practice access to justice closed the day where participants were asked to fill in an evaluation questionnaire.

The event was publicized on the Facebook page of the Ombudsman Office, the Facebook page of EMLA  and of Justice and Environment .

Germany discusses access to justice in first project workshop led by UfU e. V. / 5 June 2018

On 29 May 2018 the
 Independent Institute for Environmental Issues (UfU) e.V. held a workshop entitled “Sufficient Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Germany?“ (“Ausreichender Zugang zu Gericht in Umweltangelegenheiten?“). Twenty two participants from various environmental associations, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, lawyers, judges and representatives from research and academia discussed the challenges experienced with regard to access to justice in environmental matters. Read more

Roman Anniversary of the Aarhus Convention / 4 June 2018

The process leading up to the signing of the Aarhus Convention is already history. This historical moment was recently reenacted when people who are also part of history met in Rome, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the treaty that is officially called the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters. Read more

Let the digital quest for justice for all leave no one behind / 15 May 2018

The rallying cry of “justice for all” is synonymous with human rights and civil movements throughout history, and even a 1988 album title for heavy metal band Metallica. The push for universal justice is just as important online, especially as so much of our legal work occurs digitally. We’re currently witnessing the pros and cons of this digital revolution firsthand. Environmental NGOs have long demanded easy access to information, opportunities to participate or access to justice. This may include easily accessible online data, online participatory options (e.g. submitting comments in Environmental Impact Assessment procedures via email) or even electronic access to courts. Read more

Spain duscusses issues on access to justice during first national workshop / 4 May 2018

On 25 April, the Instituto Internacional de Derecho y Medio Ambiente (IIDMA), the Spanish partner of the A2J-EARL Project, hosted the launch event of the project at the European Commission Representation office in Madrid, Spain. It was a successful national workshop, which covered the status and main barriers on access to justice in environmental matters in Spain. Read more 

Slovak Regional Court ignores CJEU case law to deny access to justice / 12 April 2018

Via Iuris/ Justice & Environment Slovakia is going to challenge regional Court’s decision denying citizens legal standing to challenge construction works close to protected areas. Via Iuris has provided legal assistance to socially engaged natural scientists in recent cases. One of them concerned the construction of a residence and relax zone Blatnica-Sebeslavce, in the northern region of Slovakia. Read more 

Years of legal battle ended with granting Austrian NGOs access to justice / 26 March 2018

A case by ÖKOBÜRO /Justice & Environment Austria has finally reached a verdict after years of legal battle for access to justice. The ruling was issued in February 2018 following a complaint by ÖKOBÜRO from 2015. Back then, the NGO tried to challenge measures in an air quality plan for the region of Salzburg, as in their eyes it was not sufficient to reach a reasonable level of air pollution. Read more

Supreme Administrative Court of Poland denies local resident the right to challenge air quality program /
9 March 2018

In January 2018 the Supreme Administrative Court of Poland upheld the decision of the Regional Administrative Court denying standing to a resident of the town of Rybnik, in the region of Silesia, Poland, to challenge the air quality program adopted by the Silesian Regional Assembly in 2014 for the region of Silesia (hereinafter referred to as the program). The adoption of the program was required by law due to illegal levels of PM2.5, PM10 and B(a)P in ambient air in Silesia. ClientEarth intervened in the case to support the resident’s claim. Read more

Slovakia debates local issues on access to justice / 28 February 2018

Slovakian organisation Via Iuris held its first national workshop about access to justice in environmental matters on February 22nd in Bratislava. An opportunity to raise local barriers and debate with professionals. Fourteen people attended this meeting, which brought together the most relevant professionals on access to justice in the country. Recognized expert on environmental law, the Supreme Court’s judge Miroslav Gavalec attended the workshop along with Supreme Court judge Marián Trenčan. Read more 

Successful kick-off meeting of the EARL project in Hungary / 28 February 2018

On the 20th of February, a cold and snowy Tuesday, Hungarian Environmental management and law association held a successful national workshop in Budapest about access to justice in environmental matters. An event that a month ago originally started as a closed meeting of approximately twenty main stakeholders soon became a major mini-conference on the status of access to justice in Hungary with more than forty-five participants, due to the high level of interest in the matter. Read more

New project will help Europeans go to court to protect the environment / 19 January 2018

Europeans should be able to bring environmental cases to court more easily in future, as ClientEarth and Justice and Environment have jointly launched the “Access to Justice for a greener Europe” (A2J EARL) project. It aims to improve the implementation and enforcement of environmental law in EU countries by making sure the public can challenge law breaking in court. The project focuses on informing judges, public authorities and public interest lawyers about the legal possibilities available for citizens and NGOs to help protect the environment through access to justice. Read more

Developments on access to justice in 2017: focus on Austria, Germany, Estonia, Hungary, Slovakia and Spain /
2 January 2018

As 2018 has just begun let’s step back a little and see how the situation on access to justice in environmental matters developed last year, focussing on six (out of eight) European member states involved in the “Access to Justice for a greener Europe” project : Austria, Germany, Estonia, Hungary, Slovakia and Spain. Read more

Access to justice for a greener Europe / 27 October 2017

While the body of EU environmental policy and regulation is one of the most advanced and comprehensive in the world, an implementation gap has become evident. Strong legislative and policy frameworks are not providing the results that they should because they are not properly implemented. Experience across EU Member States has shown that relying solely on public authorities to overcome the implementation deficit will not yield the required results. Therefore, active citizens, either acting on their own or via NGOs, are essential to support the actions of authorities. There are many ways in which such ‘citizen enforcement’ could take place. However, in order to be truly effective, it needs to involve access to judicial review. Read more