Tagged: Aarhus Regulation

Access to information relating to emissions into the environment – Case C-673/13 P Commission v Greenpeace Nederland and PAN Europe

By Anne Friel

On 23rd November the Court of Justice handed down its judgment in appeal case C-673/13 P European Commission v Greenpeace Nederland and Pesticide Action Network Europe, confirming a broad interpretation of the concept of “information which relates to emissions into the environment” in the context of pesticides. According to the EU’s access to documents laws, public authorities, including the EU institutions, cannot disclose information that would harm the commercial interests of a third party unless there is an overriding public interest in doing so. And if the information relates to emissions into the environment, there is an irrebuttable presumption that disclosure is in the public interest (Article 4(4)(d) of the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, implemented with regard to the EU institutions by Article 6(1) of Regulation 1367/2006 (the Aarhus Regulation)). Consequently, a broad interpretation of the term “information which relates to emissions into the environment” has a direct impact on the ability of companies to protect commercially sensitive information. The long list of international, European and American pesticide lobbies that intervened in the case bears witness to this.  Continue reading

Cases C-401 to 403/12 and C-404 to 405/12: No review of legality in light of the Aarhus Convention

By Benedikt Pirker

Should EU secondary legislation be reviewed against the benchmark of the provisions of an international agreement? In 2012 the General Court answered this question in the affirmative and annulled two decisions of the Commission which were based on a regulation which was deemed incompatible with the Aarhus Convention. However, the EU institutions appealed against those judgments. Consequently, in cases C‑401 to 403/12, Council e.a. v. Vereniging Milieudefensie and C-404 and 405/12, Council v. Stichting Natuur en Milieu e.a., the Grand Chamber of the Court was confronted with the same question. There is already quite some case law on the topic of review of legality within the EU legal order in light of international obligations of the EU, typically with the Court being hesitant to undertake such review. In the cases involving the Vereniging Milieudefensie and the Stichting Natuur en Milieu, the General Court and the Advocate General made, in my view, some valuable suggestions in favour of reviewing EU law against international agreements. Unfortunately, the Court decided to stick to its guns, thus continuing in the line of its own previous jurisprudence, and annulled the General Court’s judgments. The result leaves a somewhat sour taste for those who think that EU institutions and their legal acts should be amenable to judicial review under reasonable conditions. Not only is the very purpose of the EU regulation at issue to implement the obligations arising from the Aarhus Convention, but the Grand Chamber’s view also leads to a lacuna in legal protection in EU law exactly where the central aim of the Aarhus Convention would in theory be to provide individuals with access to justice. Continue reading