Italian National Report on implementation of the Aarhus Convention - 2007 AdriaticGreeNet-notes
2011-06-24 italy

As reaffirmed by the report, the fact of non-adjustment  of access to government information or the limited use of the Principles of the Convention, both in conflicts management or resolution, asks basic questions: what has been tried, after the ‘obligation’ of acknowledgment of the Aarhus Convention, to promote the new arrangement of the law system including "environmental law"? What has been done to move from simple "formal" to "substantial" application of the Convention?
The answers are absolutely devastating: the principles of the Convention are never mentioned in their actions just by the associations officially recognized at ministerial level, that are instead presented as the main vehicle for the respect of Aarhus Convention Principles. To mantain for a long time this kind of model, instead of increasing the possibility of access to information and participation, has ossified "privileged" canals that provides information and funding.
This system has prevented the growth of collective responsibility, active citizenship that recognize their rights not only in access to information, but also and above all, the participation in decision-making.
It's impossible to find, starting from the actions made by the recognized associations, the clear interaction that environmental law puts between access to information, participation in decision making and access to justice; in the most advanced cases you can have recognition of individual parts, but not a coherent whole.
The environmental education activities, longly discussed in the Report, was highly "institutionalized" by delivering it in the hands of the Environmental Protection Agencies, whose independence is seriously in question by too many evidences; the role of recognized associations, supported by financial management, is mostly direct to substain and cooperate with EPA. After 20 years of such activity, we should be able to see visible changes in the same perception of environmental issues: the reality says otherwise.
The experience of the local A21, except isolated examples, is still not involved and above all did not modify the structure of decision-making model that is still very closed. The failed examples, due to carelessness or simple ignorance, involved the participation process to be a waste of money or a simple loophole useful to delay a choice.
The participating processes required by the laws relating to the evaluation impact assessment of projects and programs, is reduced most of the times as a simple burocratic procedure; public consultation is reduced to mere ritual expected, but completely irrelevant on the final choices. To confirm this, just read the approval decrees of the environmental impact assessment procedures, in which public participation is reduced to a simple list of name of contributors and never entering into the merits of comments.
The only formal application of the Aarhus principles, is evident even in complex situations such as in participating procedures of evaluation impact assessment  in transboundary projects or plans; the cases we followed have shown a substantial inability of governments at all levels, to manage an equal comparison starting from the right recognition of all stakeholders of different Countries.
Access to justice, even if it is guaranteed by a legal system that recognizes the "legitimate interests", provides steps very expensive and absolutely unacceptable in terms of too long time, specially thinking that often in many cases of environmental damage the urgency of reaction is already part of the solution.