CJEU, can you hear me? Access to justice in environmental matters

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Over the years, much ink has been spilled in the debate on standing of NGOs before the EU courts. This issue has been the object of particular consideration following the ruling in the Greenpeace case where the General Court denied the NGO in question standing on the basis that it did not ‘adduce any special circumstances to demonstrate the individual interest of their members’. Considering that environmental NGOs tend to represent the interests of society as a whole, or that of the environment in particular, imposing this kind of conditioning seems unreasonable. Indeed, this judgment, coupled with the more general case law on standing of non-privileged applicants, ignited fierce criticism of the judiciary’s narrow interpretation of the standing provisions, covering also debates on possible treaty amendments that could lead to more lenient judicial interpretation, as well reasons as to why no such reforming action is required. Several decades have passed since these discussions first took the centre stage of EU law forums – so why revisit them here? To start with, a number of things have changed following the initial debate on standing of environmental NGOs. First, there has been a Treaty amendment that modifies the standing test. The question that arises is to what extent the new treaty provisions – codified in Article 263(4) TFEU – and the EU Courts’ interpretation thereof, alter the standing requirement of non-privileged litigants. Moreover, in 2005, the Århus Convention – an international instrument on the access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters – was adopted in the EU legal order. In this context, the so called Århus Regulation – Regulation No 1367/2006 – is of particular importance, as it allows certain NGOs initiate proceedings before the EU courts against acts and decisions of EU institutions and bodies. The degree to which this implementing body of international law has managed to broaden the judicial road of NGOs to the EU Courts is another question worthy of anew analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)728-740
JournalEuroparättslig tidskrift
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Law

Free keywords

  • environmental NGOs
  • CJEU
  • EU-rätt
  • EU law
  • Article 263(4) TFEU
  • access to justice
  • standing rules


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