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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).

The Board is now  composed as follows: Luc Lavrysen (Belgium), President; Lord Justice Keith Lindblom (United Kingdom), Vice-President; Carlo Maria Grillo (Italy), Vice-President; Anna-Lena Rosengardten (Sweden), Vice-President; Françoise Nési (France), Secretary-General; Peter Darak (Hungary), Treasurer; Corina Michaela Jijie (Romania), Auditor and  Jerzy Stelmasiak (Poland).

This association, established under the law of Belgium, is open to all EU and European Free Trade Association judges. 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.

The Forum was created with a view to raising the awareness of judges of the key role of the judicial function in the effectiveness of sustainable development. The June 21, 1993 Lugano Convention on civil liability for damage resulting from activities dangerous to the environment, the November 4, 1998 Strasbourg Convention on the protection of the environment through criminal law and 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 Forum has its origins in the United Nations Programme for the Environment (UNEP), which initiated a meeting of all the Presidents of Supreme Courts and Chief Justices of the world during the August 2002 Johannesburg summit. To implement the resolutions adopted at the end of the symposium, regional colloquiums were set up. European judges met in Rome on May 9 and 10, 2003 and decided to establish a standing organisation for EU countries.

The first general assembly took place on April 26, 2004, at the Court of Justice of the European Communities in Luxembourg, with the support of the Directorate General for the Environment of the European Commission. Judges from thirteen Member States and from Norway became members of the association. Judges from Romania and Turkey, and representatives form the UNEP, the European Commission and the Council of Europe were welcomed as observers.

The first annual conference took place in The Hague in December 2004 and dealt with the training of judges and the specialization of courts in environmental matters. It was attended by judges from 22 member states, Norway and the European Court of Justice, and by representatives of the European Commission and the UNEP.

A forum to share judicial experience

In 2005 and 2006, the association has been a forum for EU judges to bring them together and share their experience of the implementation of environment law and especially, EU environment law.

Thus the EUFJE was involved in the conference organised by the ICEF on May 27 and 28, 2005 in Ostia Antica on the subject matter of “Prevention and Remedying of Environmental Damage”. The discussion focused on the new directive 2004/35/EC. The proceedings of this workshop have been published by Bruylant with the support of the Union des avocats européens.

On December 2-3, 2005, the annual conference of the EUFJE took place in London, with the support of the UK Presidency of the EU and the support of the European Commission (DG Environment). The debate was devoted to “European waste law – Theory & Practice” and answers to the questionnaire came from 16 European countries. They are available on the website of the Forum Lord Goldsmith QC, Attorney General, as well as Lord Phillips of Matravers, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, addressed the participants and expressed their interest in the work of the Forum. Sir Francis Jacobs, Advocate General at the European Court of Justice made a key note address on “the ECJ and Environment”.

The 2006 Annual conference was organised on September 15 and 16 by the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland, with the support of the Finnish Presidency and DG Environment. The subject matter was the “Impact of Natura 2000 on environment licensing”. 13 national reports were sent and can be found online, on the website of the EUFJE. The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, Ms Kirsti Rissanen, delivered a speech for the Minister of Justice, Ms Leena Luhtanen, and the Minister of Environment, Mr Jan-Erik Enestam, also addressed the members of the Forum. Mr Allan Rosas, Judge at the European Court of Justice delivered a speech on “The ECJ and Nature Protection”.

Gathering valuable information for EU institutions

Following the London conference, the EUFJE has endeavoured to get involved into the process of EU legislation. The London conference allowed the identification of difficulties and the Board wrote comments on the draft directive on waste. Those comments were sent to the European Commission and the European Parliament. The EUFJE is mindful that matters of policy are not matters for judges. But remarks on legal matters drawn from court experience can be useful and they were well received by European institutions. A number of EUFJE suggestions have been adopted by the rapporteur of the European Parliament Committee for Environment.

The Forum can build on this experience and discuss during the annual conference on EU legislation in the making. The experience gathered by the Forum on EU environment law is of practical value for EU judges as well as for EU institutions.

Exporting the “acquis” in environment law outside the EU

The EUFJE has also taken part in the work of the UN, with the Aarhus convention on access to justice in the field of environment law. In 2005, Lord Carnwarth, Secretary general of the EUFJE, attended a UN meeting in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The UN Task Force on Access to justice was then set up. Both the President of the EUFJE and Judge Ulf Bjallas, Vice president of the EUFJE, attended the first meeting of the Task Force in Geneva this year. The Chair of the Task Force, Mr Hakan Bengtsson, wishes to involve EU judges in two workshops to be organised in South East Europe and Central Asia in 2007, so that they can share their experience of the implementation of environment law with judges from these areas.

In 2007 the subject matter of the annual conference will be “Criminal Enforcement of Environment law”. Following the September 15, 2005 decision of the ECJ, the European Commission is drawing a directive on that subject.