In the present case the Court effectively expanded the scope of a relatively new legal instrument, the “Request for Internal Review (RIR)” procedure. The RIR enables NGOs to demand reconsideration of certain environmental decisions taken by the EU Institutions. It was introduced by the Aarhus Regulation (EC) No 1367/2006, which implements the Aarhus Convention into EU law. Despite inherent limitations - RIR “appeals” are made to the same body that made the original decision under appeal the RIR is an important legal instrument. It offers a “foot in the door” towards judicial review for stakeholders who have previously had very limited access to any such review. The Case involved the European Commissions (the “Commission”) 2008 decision to refuse an NGOs RIR request. The Commission defended its decision by pointing to the text of the Aarhus Regulation, which limits acts subject to an RIR to those of “individual” scope. The NGOs countered this argument stating that the Aarhus Convention itself contained no such limitation; therefore, that provision of the Aarhus Regulation was out of line with the Convention and illegal. The General Court essentially agreed with the NGOs and annulled the Commissions decision. This ruling affirms the priority of the EUs commitments under international law, i.e., the Aarhus Convention, over its implementation of those commitments under secondary EU law, i.e., the Aarhus Regulation. This is an important point; European environmental decision-making procedures are often characterized by an absence of transparency, meaningful public participation and accountability. Yet, the Aarhus Convention requires the opposite, i.e., procedures that provide broad access for all stakeholders, including industry, to public participation, information and judicial review in environmental matters.
Stichting Natuur en Milieu & Pesticide Action Network Europe v European Commission
Type of document:
Date of text:
June 14, 2012
European Court of Justice
Seat of court:
Wiszniewska-Biaecka łecka (Rapporteur), I.