Campaign to Access Air Quality Information
Justice and Environment (J&E) is a network of environmental law NGOs in Europe. J&E is paying particular attention to the three access rights, i.e. to information, to participation and to justice in environmental matters. In 2014, J&E claimed that the European Commission release information on two cases of infringement by Member States, i.e. when EU Member States do not follow EU law either in legislation or in practice and the EU Commission is considering taking the Member State to the EU Court. By this campaign, J&E would like to enhance transparency of EU – Member State relations thereby also contributing to more access to relevant environmental data.
J&E has followed legal developments for a long time in regard to the transparency of infringement procedures. These are run by the European Commission and aim at exercising pressure on EU Member States to make them follow EU rules. In case a Member State refuses to do so, it can ultimately be taken to the EU Court and condemned for infringing EU common legal order. Unfortunately, both the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Ombudsman have a constant case law declaring that information generated within such procedures can be withheld by the European institutions. This is so even if the matter of the case is of relevance and of importance for the public at large.
J&E in 2014 has submitted two requests for information to the Environment Directorate General of the European Commission. In the requests, J&E claimed the release of correspondence between the Union and the Member State in question (Czech Republic and Hungary). These two countries are considered to be in breach of EU legislation regarding air quality requirements and the EU Commission is considering taking these countries to the EU Court. J&E requested information and asked for the disclosure of letters sent by and to the Commission in the course of negotiations with the respective Member State.
J&E cooperates in this case with Access Info Europe, a European NGO based in Madrid and promoting access to information. J&E used the web-based online information request platform of AIE called www.asktheeu.org. Reponses were received and further clarifications were sent via this website also. The website displays the current status of the cases. There is also a campaign page adjacent to the main page and there is a campaign sub-page where anyone can join and support the transparency of the requested data by just a click here.
After the eventual refusal, J&E is considering applying for redress either at the Court of Justice of the European Union or at the European Ombudsman.