The first expert discussion on the environment and human rights: national and the perspective of the European Court of Human Rights

Belgrade 24 September 2020
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photo: Shutterstock

photo: Shutterstock

The very first expert discussion which tackled the issue of environment and human rights: national and the perspective of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), took place on 22 September 2020 in Belgrade.

The event brought together around 35 judges, prosecutors, representatives of the Judicial Academy and bar associations and initiated a discussion about relevant standards and recent developments in the area of human rights and environment at the national and the European Court of Human Rights level with the purpose of strengthening climate justice in Serbia.

During the 3,5 hours long conversation, participants had the opportunity to hear more about the most relevant case-law of the European Court of Human Rights and overview of the recent environmental case law in other jurisdictions. They also touched upon national environmental protection with the special emphasis on civil, administrative and criminal aspect and expressed essential need for continuation of the discussion in view of the current environmental challenges.

Biljana Sladojevic-Milatovic, project manager within the Council of Europe's Human Rights National Implementation Division, started the discussion by pointing out that although the European Convention on Human Rights does not guarantee a substantive right to a healthy environment, ECtHR ruled in numerous cases concerning various forms of environmental risk and harm.

In his opening remarks Tobias Flessenkemper, Head of the Council of Europe Office in Belgrade noted that in its recent document on priorities for co-operation with the Council of Europe, EU Council acknowledged CoE role in helping to shape a well-adapted legal framework in Europe regarding environmental matters.

Judge of the Supreme Court of Cassation, Katarina Manojlovic—Andric, reminded participants of the Article 20 of the Serbian Constitution which guarantees court protection of the right to a healthy environment when other national bodies fail to provide it. Along with professor Mirjana Drenovak-Ivanovic and Deputy Prosecutor Branislava Vuckovic, she outlined the ongoing difficulties that the judiciary faces when dealing with environment related cases at the national level.

Natalia Kobylarz, Senior lawyer at the European Court of Human Rights, underlined that human rights are a tool for protecting the environment by „proxy“, by means of participatory rights which consist of right to information about environment, conditions and dangers, right to participate in decision making process and access to justice, to tribunal where one can challenge the decision of other national organs.

The expert discussion is organised within the action “Strengthening the effective legal remedies to human rights violations in Serbia”, implemented under the European Union and Council of Europe joint programme “Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey 2019-2020”.

What is the Horizontal Facility II?

The European Union/Council of Europe Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey (Horizontal Facility II) 2019-2022 is a co-operation initiative of the European Union and Council of Europe for the Western Balkans and Turkey. It is one of the results of the Statement of Intent signed on 1 April 2014 by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and the European Union Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, in which both Organisations agreed to further strengthen their co-operation in key areas of joint interest.

The first phase of the programme included various Beneficiary-specific and regional initiatives and ran from 2016 to 2019. The second phase of the programme (worth €41 million between 2019 and 2022) keeps building on the results of the phase I and broadens the thematic areas to new topics crucial for the Western Balkans region and Turkey – freedom of expression and media.

The second phase of the programme covers Actions in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia as well as Turkey and the regional dimension of the programme is strengthened. The Expertise Co-ordination Mechanism that provides legislative expertise and policy advice within the Council of Europe system remains an important part of the programme available to all Beneficiaries.


How long will the Horizontal Facility II last?

The Horizontal Facility is a three-year programme, which is being implemented by the Council of Europe from May 2019 over a period of 36 months. 


How much will the Horizontal Facility II cost?

The envelope of this facility amounts to ca. 41 Million EUR (85% funded by the EU, 15% by the CoE).


What will the Horizontal Facility II do?

The Horizontal Facility enables the Beneficiaries to meet their reform agendas in the fields of human rights, rule of law and democracy and to comply with the European standards, including where relevant within the framework of the EU enlargement process. The Horizontal Facility relies on the Council of Europe’s unique working methods, whereby tailor-made technical co-operation activities are based on conclusions and recommendations of the Council of Europe’s monitoring bodies highlight areas where improvements are needed in legislation and policies of the Beneficiaries to comply with the Organisation’s treaties and other standards.

Themes covered by the Horizontal Facility include:

  • Ensuring justice;
  • Fighting economic crime;
  • Combating discrimination and protecting the rights of vulnerable groups (including LGBTI, minorities, Roma and victims of trafficking in human beings) and
  • Freedom of expression and freedom of the media.

All the themes are key priorities of the two Organisations in the Western Balkans region and Turkey.

All Horizontal Facility actions address cross-cutting issues such as gender mainstreaming, protection of minorities and vulnerable groups and foresees the engagement of civil society organisations in the implementation of the Horizontal Facility.

This website has been produced using funds of a Joint Project between the European Union and the Council of Europe. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union or the Council of Europe.

*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.