Århus "openness" convention in force

Slow progress towards ratification by EU countries draws criticism from green groups

The 1998 Århus convention on environmental openness brokered by the UN economic commission for Europe (UN/ECE) took effect today. The convention guarantees citizens across Europe the right to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters. Companies, as well as governments, could experience greater pressure to disclose environmental information.

Entry into force required 16 countries to ratify the convention, which was announced in August (EED 13/08/01). Since then only one more has done so. Denmark and Italy remain the only EU members to have ratified, while the EU itself is also still in the preparatory phase. A senior UN/ECE official expressed optimism that western countries would ratify before the first meeting of parties to the convention, scheduled for next autumn.

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