This report aims to give an overview of the legal status and practices regarding access to environmental information, public participation in environmental decisionmaking and access to justice in environmental issues in 11 countries of Western Europe: Austria, Denmark, Greece, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom1. Although most of these countries have in common their membership of the European Union, their legal systems are rather different. On one hand, this makes any analysis complicated; on the other hand, it provides a rich variety of regulatory solutions. It is not possible, nor is it the intention of this study, to give a detailed explanation of the systems analyzed. However, it is important to note that some of these countries (i.e. Austria, Germany, Spain and Switzerland) have federal or quasi-federal systems in which the distribution of competencies in environmental issues is complicated by the existence of three levels of competencies: central/federal, regional and local.
The report we present you even shows signs of regression in some countries, especially in the case of public participation. Our conclusions confirm that much needs to be done in the Western countries to make the most of the potential in the public to contribute to sustainable development. Western countries should seriously review their performance. One important opportunity to do so is the early ratification and implementation of the Convention, as a minimum basis. The EEB calls upon the governments to discuss the implementation intensively with environmental citizens' organizations and go beyond the requirements wherever this is seen as necessary and possible. Furthermore, the member states of the European Union should finally agree on similar rules and practices on the Union level.