J&E wins Austrian access to information case regarding infringement documents
On May 11th 2020, the Federal Administrative Court in Austria finally granted the request by Justice and Environment from 2013, asking the Austrian government to hand over documents containing environmental information on infringement proceedings by the European Commission against the Republic of Austria. J&E requested documents regarding potential Natura 2000 areas, as Austria did not report enough such areas. Originally the request was denied by the Federal Chancellery in 2014 – a decision J&E appealed.
Now, the appeal was finally granted and the Federal Government was ordered to hand over the documents, as called for by the Aarhus Convention. As the case took several years to be decided, unfortunately the infringement procedure in question has since been suspended.
The real question, as to whether or not documents containing environmental information from ongoing infringement proceedings have to be disclosed remains unanswered. The ECJ has previously referred this question back to the EU member states which usually refuse them as was the case in other procedures J&E initiated on national level. J&E is fighting for a broad access to information as originally intended by the Aarhus Convention and will continue to do so.