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Austria - “KOMM-Recht” and “KOMM Recht reloaded”

Main objectives: The aim of the project (June 2015 – November 2017) and its follow up (December 2017 – July 2018) was to foster cooperation and exchange of knowledge between civil society, academia and public administration on how to best involve the public in environmental procedures in Austria with a special focus to the Aarhus Convention.

 

Implementation: In conjunction with the KOMM-Recht project, several workshops and events took place to allow for an exchange of views - at both an expert and grass roots level - to discuss the legal implications of access to justice for the public under Austrian environmental law. The over-all idea was to involve experts from federal and provincial public administration, academia and stakeholders, especially environmental NGOs, by providing capacity building and a forum for discussion. Also, to inspire students and young academics to take up a career in the field of environmental law and draw their attention to Aarhus related scientific questions, and to connect practitioners and academics, an environmental law clinic was successfully implemented in cooperation with the university of Graz/Styria.

The main aim of the follow-up project KOMM-Recht reloaded was to address the remaining legal challenges with regard to access to justice under the Aarhus Convention by way of a comparative jurisprudential study, taking into account recent judgments of the European Court of Justice as well as all findings of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee addressing the implementation of article 9 paragraph 3 of the Convention concerning public access to justice to challenge breaches of national environmental law.

 

Result: Apart from a continuous exchange of legal views and networking, a guidance document on public involvement in environmental procedures in Austria has been developed and has already been published.

With regard to academia, an environmental law clinic at the University of Graz has been installed, and a special conference was dedicated to the topic of Aarhus as part of the the annual “Umweltrechtsforum” (Environmental Rights Forum). Some students of this law clinic even took up PhD-positions to further elaborate on Aarhus themes.

A new event format involving academia and stakeholders both from the environmental and economic sectors has been implemented, the so-called “economic and environmental talks”, which are taking place every year in the city of Graz in the state of Styria.

As a result, profound capacity building on Aarhus issues has been provided for relevant stakeholders and civil society.

 

Why do you think this example shows how the Aarhus Convention made a difference in your country?

The basis for successful implementation and functioning of the Aarhus Convention is profound knowledge about the Convention and its requirements. Therefore, the project KOMM-Recht has made a difference by providing capacity building. Since matters on access to justice involve several levels of administration dealing with various subject matters concerning national environmental law, a continuous exchange between Aarhus professionals – from public administration and academia to NGOs and other stakeholders – has been singled out as a proven form of cooperation.

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