AUSTRIA: Higher hurdles planned for NGOs in environmental procedures

(Translated from The Federal Government apparently wants to significantly restrict the participation of environmental protection organizations in environmental law matters. Bruno Rossmann (Liste Pilz) told journalists today that it is planned that in the future only organisations with more than 100 members will be recognised. In addition, in the future NGOs will be obliged to include the names and addresses of their members when submitting applications.

A corresponding amendment to the Environmental Assessment Law is to be discussed and adopted today in the Environment Committee of the National Council. Rossmann considers the plans to be “pure harassment” of NGOs. In addition, they could violate international law and data protection regulations, suggested Rossmann, member of the National Council, who describes this as a “further step towards Orbanisation of Austria”. In a broadcast, Walter Bacher, SPÖ data protection spokesman, described the government’s plan as a “data protection scandal”.

Environmental NGOs sound the alarm

Several environmental organizations also sounded the alarm this morning. Greenpeace even spoke of a “worrying step towards Orbanisation”. Should the amendments go through, Greenpeace said, “the majority of recognised environmental protection organisations would probably be excluded from environmental proceedings”. This would be contrary to European and international law as well as a serious breach of data protection. Greenpeace, as well as the WWF and the NGO Virus, called on the coalition parties not to submit the motion.

UPDATE: the law was adopted by the Committee on the Environment, but the measure requesting organisations to disclose personal information on their members was withdrawn