Access to letters of formal notice and reasoned opinions in environmental law matters

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Series Details Vol.12, No.7, July 2003, p197-203
Publication Date July 2003
ISSN 0966-1646
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Article abstract:

Environmental letters of formal notice and reasoned opinions take up at present about 40 per cent of all letters and reasoned opinions which the Commission issues. In 1985 Rehbinder and Stewart wrote in their book on EC environmental policy that access to information held by the EC institutions was easier to obtain for strong, powerful vested interest groups; this has not changed in the meantime. Where insurance, competition, state aid or industrial interests are at stake, the letters of formal notice or reasoned opinions are normally abundantly quoted in the press, the media and elsewhere, and no problem exists in obtaining copies. This is very different in the environmental field, where the preservation of habitats, rules against the hunting of species or groundwater or river pollution are hardly ever discussed in public. There is an international convention on access to information (the Aarhus Convention), which gives rights to the public in relation to environmental matters, but there is no such convention on access to information in industrial or other matters: that information is already available to the interested groups. This article examines whether individual persons have a right of access to these letters of formal notice and to the reasoned opinions which are issued by the Commission.

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