Recommendation 1430 (1999)
Access to information, public participation in environmental decision-making
and access to justice - implementation of the Århus Convention
(Extract from the Official Gazette of the Council of Europe November
On the eve of the third millennium, the state of the European environment
remains a matter of serious concern.
Sustainable development in Europe will only be effectively achieved
if the public becomes an active and full partner in decision-making at
all levels; access to environmental information, public participation
and access to justice are therefore prerequisites to involving the public
in environmental decision-making.
The Assembly welcomes the fact that at the Fourth Ministerial Conference
held in Århus, Denmark, in June 1998, the environment ministers of thirty-nine countries
and the European Union signed the Convention
on Access to Information, Public Participation in Environmental Decision-Making
and Access to Justice drafted in the framework of the United Nations
Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECE).
Furthermore, the Assembly welcomes serious efforts taken by a significant
number of signatories to ratify the Århus Convention during the year
The Assembly notes that the convention establishes minimum standards
and that it leaves to the discretion of the signatory parties to establish
or maintain more progressive standards than those laid down in the convention.
In that regard, the Assembly identifies a number of challenges to be
met in the process of ratification.
The Assembly considers that it is essential that national parliaments
should lead by example when it comes to democratic practice and transparency
and apply the principles of the Århus Convention in their daily work.
It notes the exemption of the deliberate release of genetically modified
organisms (GMOs) from public participation requirements, in spite of
the potential negative environmental impact of such deliberate release
and is concerned at the discretion given to governments not to apply
the public participation provisions of the convention to decision-making
It is equally concerned at potential scope for misuse of the exemption
from access to information requirements on the grounds of commercial
confidentiality and recognises the need to introduce a more precise definition
of the term in national legislation.
It strongly supports the ongoing co-operation between the signatory
parties to expand in the future the list of activities requiring public
participation procedures (Annex I of the convention) and to develop pollutant
release and transfer registers in order to provide harmonised data across
The Assembly thus recommends that the Committee of Ministers:
take into account the principles of the Århus Convention in the work
of the Council of Europe, in particular with regard to the preparation
of legal instruments, policies and programmes, when these may have
consequences for the environment;
instruct the appropriate body of the Council of Europe to follow
the implementation of the Århus Convention as part of the Organisations
regular co-operation with the United Nations Economic Commission for
call on all member state governments:
to sign and ratify the Convention on Access to Information, Public
Participation in Environmental Decision-Making and Access to Justice
(Århus, 1998) as soon as possible while establishing or maintaining
more progressive standards than those laid down in the convention;
to put in place all legal, administrative, and other instruments
to ensure that the convention is fully and effectively implemented;
to take into account public participation requirements in the early
process of preparing legislation, policies and programmes, when these
may have consequences for the environment.
 Text adopted by the Standing Committee,
acting on behalf of the Assembly, on 4 November 1999.
See Doc. 8565,
report of the Committee on the Environment, Regional Planning and Local Authorities,
rapporteur: Mrs Langthaler.
 Albania, Armenia, Austria,
Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia,
Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy,
Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco,
the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Moldova, Romania, Slovenia, Spain,
Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom.