Pilsen Environmental Foundation
AARHUS CONVENTION: LEGISLATION AND PRACTICE IN CR
Pilsen Environmental Foundation
Americká 29, 301 38 Plzeň
ANALYSIS OF ARTICLES 4 AND 5 OF THE AARHUS CONVENTION
ACCESS TO ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION, COLLECTION
Miroslav Šuta (Pilsen Environmental Foundation)
AND DISSEMINATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION
Article 4 - Access to Environmental Information
Requirements of this section are covered by Act 123/98, particularly in paragraphs 5 and 6.
Requirements of this section are covered by Act 123/98, particularly in paragraph 7.
Requirements of this section are covered by Act 123/98, particularly in paragraph 8. The opposite to formulations in the Convention,
subsections of paragraph 8 of the Act provide better protection to the public’s right.
Requirements of this section are covered by Act 123/98, particularly in paragraph 4.
Requirements of this section are covered by Act 123/98, particularly in paragraph 8, subsection 6.
Requirements of this section are partially covered by Act 123/98, particularly in paragraph 9. Regrettably, the Czech law
by provisions in section 3 of paragraph 9 enable the public authority not to make such information available and not to issue
a decision, which shall be considered a refusal of the request for information upon the determined period elapsing.
Requirements of this section are covered by Act 123/98, particularly in paragraph 10. Unlike the Convention, the Czech legal
provision specifies that the charges to be paid shall not be in excess of expenses related to making copies, arranging for data
media and dispatching the information to the applicant.
In principle, Act 123/98 satisfies the requirements of Article 4 of the Convention and appears as a modern tool of the environmental
policy. In some cases, it is surpassing the scope of the Convention minimum requirements (e.g. the duty of third persons to make
access to information) or defines some conditions more specifically. Yet the difficulties with implementation of the act are still
The practice of releasing information is not a standard service and it is completely arbitrary, based on personal construction
of Act 123/98 by individual officials. There is no methodology developed yet to refer to and construction of some disputed
provisions has not yet established.
- Development of the methodology to support accomplishment of the act with the users´/applicants´contribution
- Increase of the NGO capacity in the area and public education
- Establishment of a "bargaining" mechanism between the Ministry of Environment of the Czech Republic and representatives of the users to act in any disputed matters in order to prevent any possible conflicts (enforcement of information in a lawsuit).
Article 5 - Collection and Dissemination of Environmental Information
there are imperfections in the systems (the construction of the term "an adequate flow of information" is disputed)
Between the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of health, there are communication barriers between the two departments.
The public health service is not ready to provide information to the public, which is a residue of the communist system.
The unwillingness is often justified by an objection that the general public is not competent, the information could be abused etc.
Paragraph 2, subsection a – there is no general survey of the type and scope of environmental information held/available by/from
the relevant public authorities and some authorities seem to thrive on the situation. There is evidence to support cases when
an authority misdirected an applicant having stated that it does not held any information although it was a false statement.
Paragraph 2, subsection b (ii) Not only do the officials not support the public in seeking access to information, they even actively
prevent the access.
Paragraph 3, subsections c and d in particular – electronic databases of documents are difficult or impossible to obtain.
In paragraph 12, Act 123/98 stipulates an obligation to prepare an annual report, which shall be approved by the Government,
discussed by the Parliament and published within a period of 3 months from the date of approval.
The required encouragement does not exist in the Czech Republic
The existing programme of environmentally aware products cannot be viewed as a sufficient mechanism of providing the
public with appropriate information on the products
The existing systems are not compatible; they do not cover a desirable scope if information and the data are difficult to access.
- There is no "information megasystem" that would offer the users a summary overview of the types of information available, points of access and forms in which it is available. Hence the applicants have to wrestle with detecting the place of access to the relevant information.
- Not only do many officials not support the public in their efforts to have access to information but they also actively prevent the provisions referring, e.g. to the copyright.
- There is even evidence for a case when an official addressed turned for the construction of Act 123/98 not to his governing body but to a lawyer acting on behalf of private investors in disputes with environmental NGO.
- It is only exceptionally that required information is available in electronic form, which makes any further use of information yet more expensive and complicated.
- Contemporary information technologies (www, e-mail, CD-ROM, GIS) are used in a very limited extent.
- There are several file registers (e.g. REZZO, HEIS, ISO) that differ in cardinal characteristics (substance monitoring, groups of substances, properties, groups of reporters, frequency, system managers etc.). A thorough comparison of the system has not been carried out so far and nor have they been analysed for possible convergence.
A part of the registers is completely inaccessible to the public.
Trustworthiness of the data stored in the registers is doubted extensively. The system of certification of the reported data is not sufficient. Historically, the data was inaccessible to the public; hence the public checks of quality of the reported data are not sufficient either.
- Although preparations of the environment pollution integrated register have been formally under way since 1994, they have yet been
lacking in any general concept and the course of things has been very slow hitherto. The role of non-governmental organisation
in making the process of preparation more active an efficient has been significant. It was on the NGO´s initiative that
a PRTR sub-committee was established at the Interdepartmental Committee of Chemical Safety. Non-governmental organisations
participated in a pilot study, set a special PRTR web site, prepared a
of conditions of the PRTR preparation process compared
against the OECD recommendations, initiated an NGO forum for PRTR and organised a series of seminars on PRTR in regions.
- The Ministry of Environment has been negotiating with the Ministry of Industry voluntary agreements and initiatives without the public participation. Not only does the trust in these tools of environmental policy weaken a priori but non-participation of the public has also reflected badly in the quality, see e.g. the voluntary agreement of washing powders, which the non-governmental organisation propose for cancellation regarding its absolute inefficiency. Even the preparation of a voluntary agreement on packaging started without participation of the public being represented by the non-governmental non-profit organisation as an equal party to the agreement.
- The national programmes on asserting environmentally clean products have been restricted to awarding eco-labels. Significant sectors of consumer industry (e.g. producers of washing powders and detergents) have ignored it completely in their programmes.
- On many products, data on composition and possible negative environmental effects are missing and the consumers´ option to give preference to the environmentally aware products is restricted.
- Even the government fails to act an environmentally mature consumer and does show any ways to prefer environmentally correct products or services it purchases.
- There is no system that would motivate operators of the environment affecting activities to provide the public with information on the environment effects of their activities.
The Czech Republic will have to make considerable effort to meeting the requirements stipulated in Article 5 of the Convention.
A clear-cut strategy and a time schedule of implementation of individual requirements set by the Convention has to be prepared
with participation of the public. Further, it will be necessary to develop a mechanism of assessing the efficiency of measures taken
and remedial action taken whenever the measures prove to be inefficient or falling short.
However, the difficulties related to the act implementation are still considerable.
Proposed Partial Solutions:
- Enhancement of the NGO capacity in the field and education of the public
- Accelerating the preparation of the polluted environment integrated register
- Development of the information megasystem
- Development of the environmentally conscious products and processes programme to apply to purchases on the national funds and placement of government orders
- Development of rules stipulating the public participation during the preparation of voluntary agreements between the government and industries
- Contractual provisions for transmission of information in electronic forms (reports, environmental projects etc.)
Pilsen Environmetal Foundation
Americká 29, 301 38 Plzeň
Tel./Fax:++0420-19-74 55 905
Bankovní spojení: ČSOB a.s., pobočka Plzeň, č.ú.: 8010 - 0104 247 403 / 0300
© Plzeňská ekologická nadace, Miroslav Šuta