2.5 The situation in non-EU member states

2.5.1 EEA countries: Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway

Although not members of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are bound by the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement to adopt the "acquis communautaire", including the Directive. Thus, under the EEA agreement, the Directive is also applicable in these three states.

Liechtenstein implemented the Directive's provisions in late 1992 in a law which is almost a verbatim transposition of the Directive's provisions. Liechtenstein does not, however, charge any fees for the supply of environmental information. With the transposition of the Directive, the situation in Liechtenstein now differs in some measure from that of its close neighbour, Switzerland. In Switzerland, the right of access to information is clearly subordinate to the protection of trade and business secrecy and other interests as well. Moreover, Swiss law does not specify all grounds for refusing access to information but permits the authorities to weigh conflicting interests against one another.

Like its Scandinavian neighbours, Norway has a tradition of good access to information in possession of the public authorities. Existing legislation already satisfies the requirements of the Directive and has moreover recently been supplemented by an amendment to the Norwegian constitution on the right of access to environmental information.

2.5.2 Central and Eastern Europe

Most countries of the region enacted much new legislation in the aftermath of the transition from Communist rule. Included in this wave of legislation were new laws on administrative procedure, environmental protection and, in some cases, access to information.

The rights provided by this legislation have to date generally not led to effective access to (environmental) information, however. In a number of states, proposals for more specific and strengthened legislation on access to environmental information have been made or adopted.

The Directive is of particular importance for those states which wish to become members of the European Union since a condition for joining will be the adoption of the "acquis communautaire", including the Directive. In Poland and other states, steps are already taking place to bring national laws into conformity with the Directive's requirements11.

11 For a more detailed review of the developments in six Central and Eastern European countries, see the chapters on Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania in R. Hallo (ed.), Access to Environmental Information in Europe, note 1 above. Further information can be found in the publications of the Regional Environmental Center in Budapest on Public Participation in Environmental Decisionmaking. These publications cover 13 states in the region, including the three Baltic states.



Document Actions