Brussels 14.06.2012 – European General Court ruled that European Commission’s practice of denying NGO’s access to court and requesting a review is illegal. In contrast to commercially interested parties who get the opportunity from Commission to challenge their decisions, NGO’s such as PAN-Europe were never granted the right to defend their interests on European level . The General Court now decided that NGO’s have the right to request an internal review for a wide scope of decisions of European authorities. This concerns in fact the majority of the decisions published such as approvals, guidelines, derogations, etc. The Court ruling is based on the Aarhus Treaty on access to justice and on a wrong implementation of the Treaty in the EU. The ruling will have an enormous positive impact on NGO’s in defending public interests.
PAN-Europe – and its member Stichting Natuur en Milieu in the Netherlands – in 2008 asked Commission for a review of Commission Regulation 149/2008 allowing for a massive relaxing of pesticide residue standards in food. Commission however did not review the Regulation but stated that the NGO’s had no right to ask for an internal review of this Regulation, since it would qualify as a legislative act that connot be reviewed on the basis of the EU-legislation, that only forsees the internal review of ’administrative acts’ of ’individual scope’. Court now rules that the criteria of ´individual scope´ is not part of the Arhus convention and is a wrong implementation of the convention. The right of access to justice is also about decisions of general scope as most of the environmental regulations of Commissions are. Court further states that the Aarhus convention prevails over secondairy community legislation, all implementing rules and decisions made by Commission. This means that the possibility of asking for the internal review of Commission Regulations is now open for environmental NGO’s such as PAN-Europe.
PAN-Europe will ask Commission to start the review of Regulation 149/2008 following the request already sent tot the Commission in 2008 and put an end to the massive relaxing of the food standards. In the meantime Food Authority EFSA already decided to again lower a range of relaxed standards because of high health risks for humans, proving that PAN-Europe was right asking for a review. The Court’s ruling is open for appeal.
Francois Veillerette, PAN-Europe’s President, states that it is sad to notice that EU Court needs to force the EU to respect its signed international treaties and calls on the Commission not to go in appeal but change policy and immediately accept Court’s decision on the right of NGO’s to ask for a review and access to court.