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Green superheroes need environmental rights to properly use their powers

Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella kicked off a week of green events in Brussels yesterday with a call to citizens to take part in environmental protection – just a week before the European elections.

This year’s annual ‘Green Week’ event focuses on the implementation of EU environmental laws.

EU laws are designed by three institutions: the directly-elected European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council – made up of national EU governments and representatives. Once laws are signed off they must be applied in all EU countries.

EU legislation needs to be implemented properly to be effective and EU environmental laws are powerful tools for protecting the environment.

Over the years, the EU has set up a great number of laws to protect our natural world. However as shown in the recent reports published by the European Commission, implementation is not working everywhere. In a lot of EU member states so-called ‘implementation gaps’ remain, costing around €55 billion every year.

On Wednesday Karmenu Vella opened the Green week’s Brussels’ event with a speech on the importance of implementation and the power of citizens in that regard.

“Implementation is all about you and powers that you possess, powers much stronger than you think,” said Karmenu Vella. The Commissioner used a ‘superheroes’ metaphor saying that “you [citizens] are Europe’s eyes and you are Europe’s ears. It is up to you both individually and collectively to use those eyes and those ears.”

Francesca Carlsson, Legal Officer at the EEB said:

“Citizens can only play a role when their rights are protected. The proper implementation of the Aarhus Convention in the EU and at Member State level is crucial to protect these rights and allow for greater citizen involvement.”

The European Environmental Bureau recently published a report on the state of public participation in the EU, showing that citizens are too often locked out from decision-making in the EU and gives recommendations to the EU, the member states and NGOs to ensure greater and more efficient public participation.

Carlsson adds:

“The Commission is the guardian of the Treaties and has a major role to play to ensure good implementation of EU environmental laws. When Member States are found in breach of EU laws the Commission should not be afraid to launch infringement procedures.”

Next week elections will be crucial for the future of the environment in the EU. You can read more about EEB’s asks on our website and check out the work of our members at national level.