Visuomenės teisė į informaciją poveikio aplinkai vertinimo procese: įgyvendinimo galimybės ir teismų praktika
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International, European Union and national legislation of the Republic of Lithuania on individual’s right to information on environment is covered in this Article. The main international convention, ensuring a right to access to information, public participation in decision-making process and access to justice is the Aarhus convention. The Article covers only the first pillar of the convention, – access to information, which provides the right for everyone to receive environmental information that is held by public authorities. This pillar is split into two parts – “active” access to information, where the competent authorities are obliged to collect and disseminate information of public interest without the need for a specific request (Article 5); and „passive” implements the right of the public to seek information from public authorities and the obligation of public authorities to provide information in response to a request (Article 4). The right to access to information is transferred into the EU legislation by Regulation (EC) No 1367/2006 and Directive 2003/4/EC. The requested information may be refused by the competent authorities if the request concerns, for example, material in the course of completion or internal communications of public authorities or the disclosure would adversely affect the confidentiality of the proceedings of public authorities, international relations, national defense or public security, the course of justice and similar. The Article introduces the Espoo (EIA) Convention, which sets out the obligations of Parties to assess the environmental impact of certain activities that are likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact across boundaries, at an early stage of planning. The same legal obligation is also implemented in Article 7 of the EIA Directive. The particular emphasis in this Article is devoted to Environmental Impact Assessment process, which is regulated by the EU Directive 2011/92/EU (EIA Directive). It may be considered as the main legal act in environmental area, ensuring individual’s right to be aware of projects, which may have a significant impact on environment, in order to be properly identified, assessed and estimated before granting a permit for implementation. EIA decision is taken on the impact assessment based on the collected information. The Article also analyses an obligation to involve a developer, related authorities, interested public, stakeholders, environmental NGOs, external experts and similar in the EIA decision-making process. The public right to access environmental information covers important stages – identification of projects for assessment, environmental information provision to competent authorities, consultation with the environmental authorities, other interested parties and the public. The analysis in the Article distinguishes the possible cumulative impact of the planned project on the environment, which is also widely discussed by the EUCJ. It has identified its position on some other very important issues related to the proper implementation of the public right to access to information in the EIA process: which decisions, taken in the EIA process, shall be communicated to the public; what are the possible grounds on refusal to provide the requested information; the definition of the competent authorities and the application of the principle of proportionality. The described international and EU legal acts are transferred in the national legislation of the Republic of Lithuania, ensuring the right to access to information in the EIA process, thus the public is granted more than enough possibilities to have access to information and participate in the EIA process. The authors of the Article assert the fact that the public opinion is just of recommendatory nature, does not infer that access to information and participation in the EIA process under the present regulation and formed case law is not properly regulated or incorrectly interpreted. It shall be admitted that the public perception of the surrounding environment, as well as its suitably qualified reaction to some EIA processes prejudge the final result. Therefore, the proper legal regulation and its interpretation in the case-law are not the only criteria for insurance of proper environmental protection. A proper attention shall also be devoted to other criteria, which may influence the progress of the latter.
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