An Taisce – the National Trust for Ireland – today expressed serious concern at the European Commission’s proposal to withdraw its 2003 proposal for an EU directive on access to justice in environmental matters.

Amongst other things, this directive proposal - which has been consistently blocked by the EU's Member States - would have helped to tackle the problem of prohibitive expense (e.g. prohibitive legal costs) acting as a barrier to accessing the courts and environmental justice at the national level.

The Commission recently held a "Consultation on Access to justice in environmental matters – options for improving access to justice at Member State level", and many were (and are) hoping that this will lead to EU legislative action in this area.

However, the European Commission has just announced that it is proposing to withdraw its original 2003 proposal for a directive, and that it will now "consider alternative ways of meeting its obligations under the Aarhus Convention" and that it "is conducting an impact assessment while awaiting an ECJ judgement".

It is unclear whether the Commission's action is aimed at clearing the floor to allow for a new legislative proposal, or whether the Commission is now dropping the idea of a directive on this subject altogether. One thing is clear: EU legislative action in this area is necessary and long overdue.

Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications Officer for An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland commented: “Legal costs act as a huge barrier to justice in Ireland. This is one of the biggest problems we face today in the environmental sector. Individuals and organisations can face bankruptcy in going the legal route, and this can serve to put many people off vindicating public environmental rights altogether. We are therefore dismayed to hear of the European Commission’s plan to withdraw its directive proposal, and we hope and trust that they will be bringing forward a new legislative proposal in this area in the very near future.”


For further information, please call:

Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce +353 87 2411995

Email: [email protected]

An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland


  1. See p.8: