Informations and abstract
Keywords: Participatory Rights; Effectiveness; Aarhus Convention; Precautionary Principle; Wide Access to Justice; Habitat Directive, Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) interprets Article 6 of the Habitats Directive in light of the Aarhus Convention to give Environmental NGOs public participation rights. In addition, the Court confirms that NGOs must be able to access national courts to enforce these rights by virtue of Article 9 of the Aarhus Convention and Article 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. This was a preliminary ruling under Article 267 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The Slovak authorities authorized a project «relating to the construction of an enclosure» within a site of European interest. The applicant, a Slovak environmental organization, was opposed to that project and brought a case before a Slovak tribunal. Its application was dismissed because, under national law, environmental organizations do not qualify as parties in administrative procedures concerning authorizations. The Slovak Supreme Court, which had to decide on an appeal by the applicant, asked the ECJ whether the exclusion was compatible with Article 9 of the Aarhus Convention and Article 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Pursuant to the ECJ, the interpretation of the Slovak provision, according to which the access to courts was not possible, is incompatible with EU law. Therefore, an environmental organization has a right to participate in the administrative decision-making procedure and it must be able to address a court if this right is not respected.