Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


AGRICULTURE AND ENVIRONMENT (SUB-COMMITTEE D)

AARHUS CONVENTION (14152/03)

Letter from Elliot Morley MP, Minister of State for Climate Change and Environment, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to the Chairman

  I am writing to update you on the outcome of the European Parliaments second reading of the proposal to apply the Aarhus Convention to European Community institutions and bodies.

  My letter to you of 24 January 2005[73] set out the basis for the UK's agreement to the amended proposal. The published common position text was sent to the Clerk to the European Union Committee in September 2005. During the UK Presidency, we concentrated, in co-operation with Council and the Commission, on consultations with the European Parliament, with a view to resolving any outstanding differences.

  The European Parliament completed its second reading of the Regulation on 18 January 2006, and the attachment to this letter sets out the outcome in detail. The Government considers it is satisfactory in some respect, but not in others. Problematic amendments to the common position text relating to the internal review and access to justice provisions of the Regulation were not adopted. However, the European Parliament did pass a number of amendments that, in our view, make the text less transparent and less consistent with the Aarhus Convention. This applies particularly to amendments relating to the Regulation's access to information provisions.

  These amendments would extend provisions of Directive 2003/3 on access to environmental information, applying to Member States, to the European Community institutions and bodies. The approach taken in the common position text is to adapt provisions of Regulation 1049/2001 regarding public access to the European Parliament, Council and Commission documents to bring them into line with the Convention's requirements. This approach has the considerable advantage in terms of transparency and helpfulness to the public of creating a single regime for access to both environmental and non-environmental information held by Community bodies.

  Council is currently discussing the scope for compromise with the European Parliament on these unhelpful amendments with a view to avoiding the need for conciliation if at all possible.

15 February 2006

Letter from Elliot Morley MP to the Chairman

  I am writing to update you on the progress of the European Parliament's second reading of the proposal to apply the Aarhus Convention to European Community institutions and bodies.

  My letter of 15 February 2006 updated you on the European Parliament second reading of the Regulation. Subsequently, the Commission, Council and European Parliament have entered into discussions in trialogue to make progress on the outstanding issues,

  Good progress has been made to date. For example, mutually acceptable compromises seem to be within reach on the Regulation's treatment of public participation in environment "policies", the information given about "infringements" of environment law, and the European Parliament's wish that NGOs should be "law abiding". More work is required on how information relating to "banking" is covered. However, this and other issues seem likely to be settled in the final global package. A further trialogue is foreseen for the last week of April.

  I will inform the Committee of any further significant developments.

7 April 2006

Letter from Ian Pearson MP, Minister of State for Climate Change and Environment, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to the Chairman

  I am writing to update you on progress with completion of conciliation negotiations between Council and the European Parliament on the above proposal.

  Elliot Morley's letter of 7 April 2006 informed you that there remained only a few issues requiring further conciliation discussions. These issues have now been settled in line with the UK government's objective for a proportionate approach to this Regulation that does not go significantly beyond what is necessary to meet the Community's obligations under the Arhus Convention.

  The Conciliation Committee approved a final draft of the Joint text on the Regulation at the meeting held 2 May 2006. This stage concludes the legislative process to apply the Arhus Convention to the European Union Institutions and its bodies. A copy of the text is attached.

12 June 2006



73   Correspondence with Ministers, 4th Report of Session 2005-06, HL Paper 16, p 193. Back


 
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