Belgrade, June 30, 2023.
The workshop "Importance of Access to Environmental Information for the Improvement and Protection of the Environment" was held today, in the Blue Center Belgrade conference room no. 1, organized by the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection with the support of the OSCE Mission to Serbia. The workshop was also an opportunity to present the current situation in the area of availability of environmental information and highlight the new powers of the Commissioner in situations where environmental information is refused to the public, and what are the obstacles in exercising the right to access environmental information, i.e. how to overcome them and improve the situation in that field.
In the opening address, the workshop was opened by Milan Marinović, Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, and Ambassador Jan Bratu, Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, who emphasized the significance of raising public awareness about the importance of protecting and preserving the environment and presented the new ways to realization of the public's right to access environmental information after the adopted amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance.
The workshop brought together representatives of the academic community, public authorities engaged in environmental protection at the state and local level, interested members of the public, representatives of the Commissioner's Office, civil society organizations, and journalists who report on the environment and climate change.
On this occasion, the publication "Exercising the Right to Access Environmental Information" (version in Serbian language only) was presented by Slavoljupka Pavlović, Acting Assistant Secretary-General in the Sector for Complaints and Enforcement in the Field of Access to Information related to the first pillar of the Aarhus Convention, which is included in the publication. Amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance gave the Commissioner new powers when environmental information is refused to the public, and prescribed the new obligations of local authorities to provide environmental information to the public as soon as possible.
It was pointed out that one of the main problems is the high percentage of administrative silence of the authorities regarding requests for access to environmental information. Also, there is a high percentage of non-implemented decisions of the Commissioner's orders to disclose environmental information. Thanks to the amendments to the Law and the unblocking of the mechanisms for the enforcement of the Commissioner's decisions, that problem has been eliminated.
At the end of the workshop, the actors concluded that without access to environmental information, there is no public participation in decision-making as one of the necessities for a good definition of public policies, and the adoption of strategies and appropriate measures for environmental protection.
The event is realized within the Project "Application of the Aarhus Convention and Access to Information of Public Importance".