Slovak non-governmental law organisation VIA IURIS to challenge Regional Court´s decision denying CJEU’s case law on access to justice
VIA IURIS is going to challenge Regional Court´s decision in cassation before the Supreme Court. The decision challenged collides with CJEU´s case law on access to justice, namely its ruling C-243/15.
Via Iuris has provided legal assistance to socially engaged natural scientists in a few cases. One of them has concerned construction of a residence and relax zone Blatnica-Sebeslavce, in the northern region of Slovakia. This zone is planned to be constructed close to Natura 2000 areas and represents threats to protected species, their habitats and habitats of European interest protected by the Habitat directive. Given the seriousness of threats, two natural scientists wanted to take part in the land-use proceedings as interested public and bring expert arguments why this construction should not be placed close to such important area and what negative impact it would have.
First instance and appeal state administration bodies rejected the status of a party of the scientists in this land-use proceeding. In February 2016 VIA IURIS challenged these decisions before Regional court of Žilina. However, meanwhile the case has been considered before the court – dealing with the procedural question whether they should have or not the status of the Party to the proceeding in the land-use proceeding - the decision in the merit of the land-use proceeding was adopted. Defendant- state administration body- required the court to defeat the case, arguing that if decision in merit was already adopted there is no reason to deal with the standing of the claimants anymore. Defendant pointed out that in such case other type of action before court would be more suitable- so called “action of forgotten party to proceeding”. Regional court of Žilina as first instance court followed the argumentation of the defendant and rejected the case in February 2018.
According to CJEU’s case law, it is to be considered as a denial of access to justice when question concerning party status of an environmental organisation in the administrative proceeding authorising a project affecting NATURA 2000 is not examined, and judicial proceedings, in this respect, are not concluded before the decision on merits, i.e the land- use permit for such project is granted. Therefore, judicial proceedings on party status cannot be dismissed only because the project was authorised in the meantime. In addition, requiring an organisation to bring an action of another type in order to obtain that party status is to be considered as a denial of effective access to justice.