As far as its powers are concerned, the federal government has transposed the provisions of the Aarhus Convention (HTML) and the European directives (HTML) on public participation in plans and programmes relating to the environment into federal law through the Law of 13 February 2006 (.PDF) (only available in French and Dutch) on the assessment of the impact of certain plans and programmes on the environment and public participation in drafting plans and programmes relating to the environment.
The federal Law of 13 February 2006 (.PDF) stipulates the minimum conditions that a federal government must observe when required to organise a public consultation during the plan or programme drafting phase. Thus this law creates a homogenous public participation system for federal plans and programmes: both those covered by European Directive 2001/42/EC (.PDF) and those covered by European Directive 2003/35/EC (.PDF).
Participation regarding plans and programmes relating to the environment
Plans and programmes relating to the environment are an essential tool when organising social activities in time and scope. A plan to combat global warming, for instance, steers the whole of society towards a particular technology or approach, in preference to other options. An ozone plan proposes measures for easing the problems caused by ozone smog, and a product policy plan outlines measures to make products more eco-friendly and encourage the use of environmentally-friendly products.
Plans can be established at various levels: municipal, provincial, regional, federal and international.
An example of a plan at the federal level: participation on biodiversity
At the federal level, the participation procedure has been employed for Belgium’s national biodiversity strategy. APublic consultation was held in 2006 on the general approach and objectives for biodiversity policy for 2006-2016. Based on the conclusions of the population, on 26 October 2006 the competent environment ministers adopted a definitive national biodiversity strategy.
See More biodiversity in Belgium. The Belgian national biodiversity strategy 2006-2016
What exactly does participation entail?
Neither the Aarhus Convention (HTML) nor the European level (HTML) specify exactly how public participation must be organised. The federal Law of 13 February 2006 (.PDF) merely sets out the minimum requirements for the procedure which all public authorities must observe in all circumstances:
- the public consultation must be announced through the Moniteur Belge official gazette, on the federal portal site www.belgium.be and through another means of communication chosen by the public authority (such as an announcement in a newspaper), at least 15 days before it is due to commence.
- the public consultation must last 60 days, and must be suspended between 15 July and 15 August;
- the announcement in the Moniteur Belge must stipulate the starting and ending date of the public consultation and the method by which the public can make its opinions and comments known;
- the comments and views can be sent to the public authority by post or electronically;
- the public authority must take account of public consultation’s results before reaching its final decision;
- once the public authority has made its decision, it shall explain to the public in a statement the reasons for its final choice and how the public’s comments were taken into account;
- lastly, the public authority must announce the plan or programme it has adopted in the Moniteur Belge and disseminate it on the federal portal site.
The federal law of 13 February 2006 also stipulates that the government may lay down additional stipulations for public participation if it deems this necessary.
Announcements and results
See the section entitled Consultations publiques (Public consultations) for current federal public consultations and results of previous public consultations.
See www.aarhus.be (WEB) for current and completed federal and regional public consultations about plans and programmes.