Ministry for Environmental Protection: Keep Environmentalists out?
A large number of environmental groups have addressed an open appeal to Prime Minister Azarov following a quite unprecedented demonstration of disregard for the principles enshrined in the Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters.
On 29 April the first meeting took place of the Board of the Ministry for Environmental Protection [the Ministry] since the new Minister, Viktor Boiko took office. On Mr Boiko’s instruction, one of the members of the Board – the Director of the Aarhus Information and Training Centre and First Deputy Head of the Ukrainian Environmental League, Tetyana Tymochko was simply barred from the meeting. The Ministry guards prevented her from entering the building, saying that this was on the personal instruction of the Minister. They provided no document explaining the legal justification for such a decision.
The appeal points out that this is an entirely unprecedented case in the entire history of the Ministry Board. Under all previous ministers, the public had found a considerable degree of openness in its work. Tetyana Tymochko had often addressed previous meetings endeavouring to present the attitude of civic organizations to the activity of the Ministry and its officials. “Over many years even those officials whom she criticized, understood that this was her right as a person, a specialist and as a representative of a Ukrainian environmental organization.
During the meeting, several members of the Board – Deputy Ministers and National Deputies, having learned of the reason for Ms Tymochko’s absence, stated that this was unacceptable. The Minister was not at the time present, and the guards, referring to his instruction, did not remove the ban.
The authors of the appeal stress that no document justifying Ms Tymochko’s exclusion was produced. They also point out that the Ministry, in implementation of legislation, including the Aarhus Convention, have traditionally involved civic environmental organizations in the work of the Board.
They suggest that the Minister wished to demonstrate to the heads of regional Departments for Environmental Protection, and the State Environmental Inspectorate, as well as others present how to treat the public.
The authors find such an attitude quite unacceptable, especially where the environment is concerned, since the rights of citizens are protected not only by domestic legislation, but also international agreements, in particular the Aarhus Convention. They ask the Prime Minister to give an assessment of the actions of Mr Boiko and to inform them of his decision in this matter.
The appeal is signed by a number of Ukraine’s most prominent environmental organizations.