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Is The EU Commission Answerable To The Law?

a fantastic read Pat Swords Turn 180
The EU’s programme on ‘Projects of Common Interest’ includes some 200 plus projects related to renewable electricity, characterised by large size and environmental impacts, as they must as a minimum link two or more Member States. The renewable export projects in the Irish midlands comprising of thousands of giant turbines fall into this programme, as do the sea water flooding of valleys in Donegal and Mayo, the former being associated with a dam size some twice the size of the giant Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. The aim of this EU programme and associated regulation is to provide funding, already ‘ear-marked’ at €5.85 billion with more to come, and accelerated planning and permit granting procedures (a binding three-and-a-half-years’ time limit).

The EU Commission in 2012 rushed through the public consultation on this programme, failing completely to inform the public to be affected and despite repeated requests for the provision of environmental information on the proposed Irish projects by members of Turn 180, this was denied. The current situation is that there is an on-going Communication at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee taken by the European Platform Against Windfarms (EPAW), while the Central European environmental law group, Justice & Environment has taken the matter into the European Court of Justice. At an Irish level work by members of Turn180 has led to two complaints being processed at the office of the European Ombudsman, who is now our own Irish Emily O’Reilly.

The attached documentation relates to correspondence on these EU Ombudsman complaints, in which the President of the Commission Manuel Barroso and the Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger have had to formally reply to the EU Ombudsman. There is detail in this documentation, but it is revealing.
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The salient points being:

  • It is clearly the intent of the Commission to bypass the legal framework to assess this programme, such as to determine its suitability and justification in the first place, and to comply with the public participation requirements legally binding through the UNECE Aarhus Convention and associated implementing EU regulations. Clearly once they have their regulation on Projects of Common Interest, billions in funding and priority planning in place, they will then ‘ram through’ the individual projects as quickly as possible – a ‘modus operandi’ they are now good at.
  • For instance, with regard to the legal obligation to his comment is here ‘identify the public‘ which were to take part in the legally mandatory public participation process on the programme, Commissioner Oettinger is quite adamant that identification of specific target groups in Ireland and/or in other EU Member States for the purpose or carrying out the consultation on the PCI Regulation was not considered necessary.
  • Commissioner Oetttinger and his officials were completely arrogant as to the point that their well hidden web page, which essentially no reasonable citizen would every be bothered to look at, sufficed for the legal obligation of ‘public notice’ to contact those affected citizens. He and his officials were also adamant that they had used the relevant languages of the 28 Member States to contact those citizens, i.e. they could not agree with the allegation that it restricted the “language of its website on the public consultation to English only” and thus that it “disenfranchised” many EU citizens. Guess what? When one goes into the German language section of the Commission’s website and goes to that consultation section, you are told in German that the documentation is only available in English!
  • It gets even better. You have President Barroso claiming that the EU Projects of Common Interest regulation adopted in 2013 can legally be used to make documentation dating previously from 2012 to be now commercially confidential. Furthermore, despite the International case law of the Aarhus Convention, which is binding on the EU, being clear that one cannot use a blanket classification of commercial confidentiality to deny citizens access to environmental information, this is exactly what the 2013 Regulation President Barroso quoted now does. In other words, the Commission is quite happy to bring in secondary legislation, which is non-compliant with its own legal framework and a direct abuse of the citizen’s rights. Sure why not, if all the money details, and we are talking billions, are behind closed doors and only available to the insiders, wouldn’t that be a lovely ‘club’ to be part of?
  • Finally, there are three pillars of the Aarhus Convention, namely access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters. Not content with making a mockery of the first two, we find that the third is also a complete joke. No matter how many legal breaches you can document against the EU, despite your theoretical rights as an affected citizen to a legal Court hearing to deal with them, you cannot actually get into the European Court. They refuse to recognise your rights of access as a citizen. Furthermore, you should ask yourself the question: is the EU Ombudsman’s office led by Emily O’Reilly and her expensively paid team of ombudsmen / ombudswomen, a complete joke? For instance, in the simple situation when you are denied access to environmental information, there has to be under Aarhus a formal independent review process, which is expeditious and which leads to binding rulings. The EU Ombudsman has no power to do either. So we have the quite pathetic situation where after many month’s pass, with the odd bit of paperwork being shuffled around, we have the EU Obudsman performing their role -with utmost integrity we might add- to impress the ‘natives’ that they are finding ‘friendly proposals / solutions’ while all the time they appear to ride roughshod over the rights of the citizens, who pay their wages for performances which lead to actually nothing.

You couldn’t make it up or should one just read George Orwell’s ’Animal Farm’, where the pigs decide and all the animals have to toil building windmills?

Reply to EU Ombudsman of July 2014 on Complaint 240-2014-SID in relation to Request for Observations-1

Reply to EU Ombudsman of July 2014 – Observations on Commission’s response-1

FS REPLY_Part 1 from President Barosso

Observations_Request_201400240_20140703_142100

Attachment 2 Reply on Observations Request 0240–2014-SID Verfügbare Sprache – Europäische Kommission

Attachment 1 Reply on Observations RequestComplaint 0240-2014-SID Energie_ Give us your op..-1

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