New directive on public involvement in environmental planning

The European Council and Parliament have agreed on the adoption of an EU directive on public participation in environmental planning.

The draft directive covers plans and programmes on waste, air quality management and the protection of water from nitrates. It aims to enhance public involvement in decisionmaking, completing the UN Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation in planning and access to justice in environmental matters (see related story).

Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström welcomed the directive, adding that it would raise awareness and improve the quality of decisions made concerning the environment, where both the public and stakeholders would be better served and more likely to respect decisions.

The directive also establishes access to justice, granting the public the right to challenge the legality of decisions, acts or omissions. But the public may be exempt from the decision process if the plans involve issues of national defence. Once the directive is formally approved, Member States will have two years to implement it.

But as the Danish government celebrates the latest directive following six months as President of the EU Council, the European Environmental Bureau says the Presidency has failed on the issues of environmental fiscal reform and environmental liability.

Despite successes such as securing a decision on emissions trading (see related story), the Presidency has failed to adopt a proper system of energy taxation and to set minimum standards for an effective system of environmental liability, says the EEB.



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