2019 EUFJE Annual Conference in Helsinki : The role of science in environmental adjudication

Report by Sascha Dalen Gilhuijs, Director STAB and EEEI’s General Secretary

On Friday September 13th the annual Annual Conference of EUFJE, the EU Forum of judges for the environment, was hosted by the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland in Helsinki. The theme was: “The role of science in environmental adjudication”. Kari Kuusiniemi, President of the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland and Luc Lavrijsen President of EUFJE welcomed Krista Mikkonen the Minister of Environment and Climate Change for the opening speech. Finland has set very ambitious goals to reduce the impact on the environment. Aurel Ciobanu-Dordea, director of Implementation and Support to member states gave a summary of the European activities from the perspective of the European Commission. Christoff Sobotta, the right hand of Juliane Kokott gave a lecture on how the CJEU (Luxembourg) deals with scientific knowledge or experts, actually the need to have more scientific expertise as there is little expertise used in court proceedings and this seems to become a lacuna for the future. Followed a presentation of the report of findings that was drafted based on the questionnaire that was sent out. The report made is available on the website of EUFJE (www.eufje.org) where you also can find the presentations given.

In the afternoon there where examples of how expertise is used in court proceedings in different member states. Finland and Sweden have scientifically schooled judges in their environmental chambers. The Netherlands has a scientific experts foundation dedicated to give expert opinions to judges. Chief Judge Brian Preston, of the Land and Environment court of New South Wales, gave an extensive insight in the proceedings in Australia which is very much like the British system. The common law system works with technical party experts who have to give evidence to the court on what points they agree and disagree and they have to identify and clarify the basis of disagreement.

The conclusion of the day was that there is a need for technical expertise to be more widely available for the judiciary where examples like the STAB as an independent court expert organisation is to be further examined.

You can consult the programme and all the presentations.

EUFJE:  Forum of Judges for the Environment

The European Union Forum of Judges for the Environment was created in Paris on February 28, 2004, on the initiative of Mr Guy Canivet, First President of the Cour de Cassation (France), Amedeo Postiglione, Judge of the Corte Suprema di Cassazione (Italy), Luc Lavrysen, Judge of the Constitutional Court (Belgium) and Lord Justice Robert Carnwath, Judge of the Court of Appeal (England and Wales). This association is open to all EU and European Free Trade Association judges and to judges of former EU Member States. The objective of the Forum is to promote the enforcement of national, European and international environmental law by contributing to a better knowledge by judges of environmental law, by exchanging judicial decisions and by sharing experience in the area of training in environmental law.

A few dates:

The June 21, 1993 — Lugano Convention on civil liability for damage resulting from activities dangerous to the environment.

The Novembre 4, 1998 — Strasbourg Convention on the protection of the environment through criminal.

The June 23 and 25 1998 Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation in decision making and access to justice in environmental matters underline this requirement and give the judiciary a central role in the enforcement of environmental law.

The conferences:
On 3 December 2004, EUFJE held its first Annual Conference in the Council of State of the Netherlands, in The Hague, in 2010 and for the first time, the Forum brought together public prosecutors from the different members states of the EU. In doing so, the Forum was instrumental in the creation of the European Network of Prosecutors for the Environment (ENPE). Find all the conferences as well as programmes, presentations and national reports on www.eufje.org/ 

Today the Board is now composed as follows: Luc Lavrysen (Belgium), President; Lord Justice Keith Lindblom (United Kingdom), Vice-President; Luca Ramacci (Italy), Vice-President; Fruzsina Bögös (Hungary), Secretary-General, Claes-Göran Sundberg (Sweden), Treasurer; Françoise Nési (France), Auditor and Jerzy Stelmasiak (Poland), Vice-President.

Few actions:

The Forum :

is involved in the activities of the Aarhus Convention (UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters), especially those of the Task Force on Access to Justice. Members of the Forum attend the different meetings of the Task Force and were also involved in the preparation of its capacity building activities for judges in Kiev, Tirana and Almaty

is advising DG Environment of the European Commission when developing proposals for EU legislation with a particular relevance for judges, such as the access to justice proposal, the legal instrument on environmental inspections or when the Commission is evaluating existing legislation such as the environmental liability directive

is participating in the Environmental Compliance and Governance Forum, a group of experts established by the European Commission in 2018 in the framework of the Action Plan on Environmental Compliance Assurance.