LL.M., Lecturer of Environmental Law
University of Tartu
Deﬁ nition of an Environmental
Organisation in the Arhus
Directives and Estonian Law
There is an on-going extensive environmental reform in Estonia. In the process, on 16 February 2011, the
Estonian Parliament adopted the General Part of the Environmental Code Act*1 (hereinafter referred to
as the GPECA) which, for the ﬁ rst time ever, provides for a universal legal deﬁ nition of an environmental
organisation in Estonian law.*2 The deﬁ nition is paramount for implementation of the code as the provisions
of the general part were drafted in line with the principle that environmental organisations carry a special
role in the protection of environment-related public interest.*3 The requirement to recognise environmental
organisations also stems from the Arhus convention*4 and certain environmental directives.*5 The conven-
tion, directives and Estonian law all ascribe a special status to environmental organisations in environmen-
tal proceedings and access to justice in environmental matters. This article aims to clarify the conditions
an organisation must meet in order to be treated as an environmental organisation for the purposes of the
Arhus convention, directives and Estonian law and, ultimately, to provide an answer as to whether or not the
Estonian deﬁ nition of an environmental organisation meets the framework conditions of the Arhus conven-
tion and environmental directives. In view of the limited space afforded to this article, the focus will be on
the deﬁ nition of environmental organisations in the context of access to a review procedure.
1 RT I, 28.2.2011, 1 (in Estonian).
2 GPECA §31.
3 Keskkonnaseadustiku üldosa seaduse kontseptsioon (Concept of GPECA), p. 66. Available at http://www.just.ee/orb.aw/
class=ﬁ le/action=preview/id=44910/Keskkonnaseadustiku+%FCldosa+seaduse+kontseptsioon.pdf (14.6.2011) (in Esto-
4 The UN convention on accession to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environ-
mental matters was opened for signature on 25 June 1998 at the 4th conference of ministers of environment in Århus on 25
June 1998. The convention entered into force on 30 October 2001. Available at http://www.unece.org/env/pp/treatytext.
5 In particular, the following directives are relevant: Council directive 85/337/EEC of 27 June 1985 on the assessment of
the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment (hereinafter referred to as EIA directive). – OJ L 175,
5.7.1985, pp. 40–48; directive 2004/35/EC of the European Parliament and Council of 21 April 2004 on environmental
liability with regard to the prevention and remedying of environmental damage (hereinafter referred to as Environmental
Liability Directive). – OJ L 143, 30.4.2004, pp. 56–7; directive of the European Parliament and Council 2008/1/EC of 15
January 2008 concerning integrated pollution and control (codiﬁ ed version) (hereinafter referred to as IPPC directive). – OJ
L 24, 29.1.2008, pp. 8–29. As from 7.1.2014 the IPCC directive will be replaced by directive 2010/75/EU of the European
Parliament and Council of 24 November 2010/75/EU on industrial emissions. – OJ L 334, 17.12.2010, pp. 17–119.
JURIDICA INTERNATIONAL XVIII/2011