Denmark opens up green decision-making

Government proposes amending at least 12 laws to implement Århus convention

Proposals for making Danish law fully compliant with an international convention guaranteeing public participation in environmental decision-making were announced by the national environment protection agency (EPA) yesterday. If the legislative changes are approved by the parliament early next year, as expected, Denmark will become one of the first countries to ratify the convention, developed by the UN Economic Commission for Europe and signed in Århus, Denmark, last year by more than 50 countries (ENDS Daily 25 June 1998).

The Danish proposals have already been sanctioned by the European Commission, which is itself involved in a lengthy review of its entire body of laws in the light of the convention, an EPA official told ENDS Daily. Some EU laws may have to be amended in the light of the three main pillars of the convention - public participation, access to information and access to justice - and the review process is not expected to be complete until early 2001, she added (ENDS Daily 4 January).

The most important change to Danish law concerns a new right of appeal against planning decisions. This was previously restricted to either local interest groups or a select group of named national organisations, but will now be thrown open to all. Other key alterations include greater right of access to information about publicly owned companies, cutting down on the number of exemptions from the requirement to disclose environmental information and a stronger role for the authorities when decisions with an environmental impact are taken.

Additional provisions cover the development of better internet-based environmental information services, easier access for all interested parties to relevant data bases, more public involvement in environmental planning and greater openness.

Involving changes to at least 12 national laws, the Danish proposals now go to a public hearing, with the government calling for as much input as possible. Deadline for suggestions is the end of November, with the government hoping for final parliamentary approval before next summer.

Follow Up:
Danish EPA, tel: +45 32 66 01 00.

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