Policy Brief – Access to Environmental Information in Georgia

30 Mar, 2018
Read the full version

Access to environmental information is a critical element for effective public participation in environmental decision-making and the execution of environmental rights. The EU-Georgia Association Agreement, signed in June 2014 and in force since summer 2016, stresses the importance of environmental protection and the sustainable use of natural resources. The need for full implementation of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Convention on access to information, public participation and access to justice on environmental matters (Aarhus Convention) were also underlined in the EU-Georgia Association Agenda 2013-2016.

The Directive 2003/04/EC – Access to environmental information – is the tool for transposition of the first pillar of the Aarhus Convention. It entails “the widest possible systematic availability and dissemination to the public” of environmental information, with the aim to increase the transparency of administrative decisions, facilitate meaningful public participation and decrease the risks of corruption in the field of environmental protection. The Association Agreement requires that Georgian legislation comply with the directive by the end of 2016.

From 2014 to 2016, the Georgian government undertook a number of measures to ensure compliance with the Directive. It introduced the environmental information definition in legislation and, with some delay, started the establishment of an environmental information dissemination system. However, gaps in the Georgian legislation restrict access to environmental information for the public and contradict the Directive 2003/04/EC. It largely influences the ability of state structures to provide fullscale information about the environment. As a result, the official Report on the State of the Environment, prepared by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources in year…, superficially reviews the information regarding the emissions, types of pollution and the harms caused by big polluters (mainly energy and mining companies). Limited access to environmental information also restricts meaningful public participation in environmental decision-making processes on large development projects (e.g., transmission lines, roads, power plants, new mines, etc.). As a result, there are permanent, ongoing protest actions by affected communities all around the country.