Moldovans do not have sufficient access to environmental information and their right to participate in decision-making is often restricted. The responsibilities of the state authorities are fragmented, and many key pieces of the EU law were not yet transposed. As a result, the environment does not have enough protection, and the country is limping behind in fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals according to the latest report published by the environmental non-governmental organizations Arnika (Czechia) and Eco-TIRAS (Moldova). In the fields of implementation of the Aarhus Convention - access to information, public participation and access to environmental justice - several deficiencies were found and should be fixed by the government to comply with the convention.
In a news conference at IPN, and according to a press release, Dr. Natalia Zamfir, lawyer, associate professor at Moldova State University and the leading author of the shadow report on implementation of the Aarhus Convention, said one of the main problems is insufficient access to environmental information. “The situation has not improved for years. Requests of the public for information are frequently ignored. When the authorities respond, the information provided is incomplete or limited,” she explains. “Only the minority of information is in electronic format and no interconnection between these databases exists. There are no online information tools,” she adds.
“Public participation in decision-making is narrow, as the public consultations of laws and regulations are formal, largely limited to their publishing on websites without holding actual discussion and considering comments of the public. Environmental impacts of the majority of projects are not discussed at public hearings,” Zamfir continues. “In the cases when people want to defend their rights at the court, they face a lack of environmental lawyers and too high court fees.”
“The legislation has serious gaps that make protection of the environment uneasy,” says Ilya Trombitsky from Eco-TIRAS. “For example, NGOs and other interested persons permanently have difficulties in accessing environmental information. Thus, 13 years ago the government did not provided NGO with information on forest state fund renting, but five years ago NGOs met with the governmental agency's request to pay a very high cost on the “historical” information on the state of the environment. But the nature protected areas in contrary with the law lost financing from the state budget. When it comes together with lack of information and weak public control, we witness looting of the forests and natural resources.
According to Zuzani Vachůnová from Arnika, protection of the environment clearly was not the priority of the government in recent years. “Moldova has even not prepared any report on Aarhus Convention implementation since 2014 - as the first signatory country,” says Zuzana Vachůnová. “New government declares European orientation, and we can hope with caution that environmental democracy will get the attention of the state it deserves.”
The shadow report on implementation of the Aarhus Convention in Moldova: Review of law, policy and practice is available here: www.arnika.org.
The Aarhus Convention, also known as the Convention on Environmental Democracy, entered into force on 30 October 2001. The Aarhus Convention guarantees the right to environmental information, public participation in decision making, access to justice, and protection of defenders of the environment from persecution. More on Aarhus Convention on: https://aarhusclearinghouse.unece.org/.