Adherence to international and EU legal requirements

Environment does not respect national borders. This is why international and European obligations in this respect are particularly important: They create generally applicable rules to be respected by all contracting states. Unfortunately, this is not always a matter of course. Hence, civil society plays an important role to enforce state obligations. It therefore often ensures Compliance with international and EU obligations in different countries.

International and European standards for environmental protection

Within the European Union, Directives and Regulations provide for common minimum standards for environmental protection in the member states. Furthermore there are crucial international agreements within the environmental sector applicable beyond EU boarders:

  • Aarhus Convention: The Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters
  • Espoo Convention: The Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context
  • Alpine Convention: The Convention on the Protection of the Alps

Austria as well as the EU have committed to comply with these treaties.

European Commission and international committees control the adherence to environmental standards

The European Commission is responsible for monitoring compliance with EU environmental law. In case of infringements, it has the possibility to initiate proceedings against member stated before the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The Aarhus Convention is focused on public involvement in the respective contracting state. The Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee (ACCC) checks whether contracting states meet the requirements of the Convention.

Meeting of the Aarhus Convention in Geneva

The Espoo Convention addresses transnational impacts of large-scale projects. For example in case of nuclear power plants, large dams or infrastructure projects more than on country might be affected. In these cases, persons in the affected countries must as well be included in the permitting procedure. The Espoo Implementation Committee monitors whether these requirements are met.

The Alpine Convention aims at preserving natural ecosystems in the Alpine region. Damages must be prevented beforehand. Persons or “polluters” interfering with the environment shall, in return, take measures for its protection. Natural resources in the Alpine region are to be used carefully and in a sustainable way. The Permanent Committee of the Alpine Convention watches over these aims and principles.

ÖKOBÜRO provides information on the compliance with international and EU obligations

ÖKOBÜRO director Thomas Alge and Christoph Walder of WWF Austria at a hearing before the European Court of Justice

ÖKOBÜRO has always been promoting that decision-making processes are democratic and include public participation. We are dedicated for the implementation of EU environmental law and of Conventions in Austria, but also cooperate internationally with other organisations. We publish studies, organise events and engage in the further development of participatory rights in Austria and other EU states. Not at least, we proceed on EU level and before international bodies against infringements.