12 Sep Spanish authorities do not fully comply with the rights on access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters of the Aarhus Convention, IIDMA claims
This week the city of Budva, in Montenegro, is holding the sixth session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters and the third session of its Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers (PRTR) to which Spain is a party.
“There is still much work to be done in Spain to achieve correct and full implementation of the rights recognized under the Aarhus Convention. This entails an obstacle to environmental democracy” says Ana Barreira, Director of IIDMA, from Montenegro where she is participating at the Meeting of the Parties of this Convention and of its PRTR Protocol.
The Aarhus Convention was adopted in 1998 and ratified by Spain in December 2004. It is an international treaty which requires contracting Parties to guarantee the rights on access to environmental information, public participation on decision-making and access to justice on environmental matters. The aim of this is to contribute to the protection of every individual’s right, including present and future generations, to live in an environment that guarantees their health and well-being. “Nonetheless, in Spain there are still many obstacles to be able to exercise these rights and we experience them daily in our work”, adds Barreira.
Obstacles to the right on access to information
One year and a half ago IIDMA requested to the authorities of two Autonomous Communities in Spain – Asturias and Aragón – specific reports on the state of soil and groundwater of coal-power plants operating in both regions. Nonetheless, neither of them have provided access to the requested information; despite they are required to do so within a period of one month, in line with the Aarhus Convention.
Obstacles to the right on public participation
In March 2017, IIDMA requested before the authority of Asturias to be part in the review procedure of the environmental permits of coal-power plants operating in this Autonomous Community. Nonetheless, this authority did not provide a response within the legally established period, forcing IIDMA to file in June the corresponding administrative appeal before the competent authority of that region.
Obstacles to the right on access to justice
As a result of the authority of Aragón refusing to give access to the information regarding the state of soil and groundwater of the coal plant located there, IIDMA filed a judicial appeal before the Supreme Court of Aragón, requesting at the same time for legal aid in accordance with the Aarhus Convention provisions. Nevertheless, this aid has been refused both by the Committee for Legal Aid of Aragón and by the regional Supreme Court. “At IIDMA, we are very pleased with the request made to Spain at the sixth session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention to urgently take measures to ensure the correct implementation of the provisions of the Convention with respect to legal aid for environmental NGOs”, concludes Barreira.