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IP/10/1587

Brussels, 24 November 2010

Environment: Commission asks Czech Republic to comply with Court ruling on environmental impact assessments

The European Commission is urging the Czech Republic to comply with a European Court of Justice ruling on public involvement in environmental impact assessments. On a proposal by Commissioner Potočnik, the Commission is therefore sending a letter of formal notice under ongoing infringement proceedings. If the Czech Republic fails to respond within two months, they could face a second Court referral and financial penalties.

In June 2010, the European Court of Justice ruled that the Czech Republic was failing to comply with a Directive on Environmental Impact Assessments. Problems were identified with several aspects of the access to justice provisions of the Czech transposition. The case was opened in 2006, and although the Czech Republic amended its legislation in 2009, the Commission is still not convinced that the transposition ensures adequate access to justice.

The main point of concern is that the new legislation only applies to projects for which the environmental impact assessment began after 11 December 2009. According to the Commission, the new legislation should be widened to include all projects for which the impact assessment was already under way before that date and where separate authorisation procedure for the project had still not been initiated. The Commission therefore considers that the implementation of the Court ruling is not complete, and a letter of formal notice is being sent under ongoing infringement proceedings. The Czech Republic has two months to comply. If the appropriate action is not taken, the Commission may decide to refer the case back to Court and request financial penalties.

Background

Under the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive 85/337/EEC, possible impacts of projects on the environment are assessed before projects are allowed to begin. This enables planners to adjust projects and minimise negative impacts before they actually happen.

The Directive also ensures early public participation in the environmental decision-making procedures. For this to work, the public concerned must be able to pass comment when all options are still open to the competent authority, i.e. before a final decision is taken on the request for development. This infringement revolves around the Czech provisions for public participation.

For current statistics on infringements in general see:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/legal/implementation_en.htm

For more details on infringement procedures in general, see MEMO/10/605


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