23. September 2022

At the second workshop on formal digital public participation in our Aarhus-Strong project we looked at the different designs of EIA portals in Germany, Austria, Estonia and Slovenia. The Aarhus-Strong project aims to actively promote digital public participation in various EU Member States and to formulate national action strategies for the further development of the portals. To this end, UfU is cooperating with the Slovenian NGO Pravno-informacijski centre nevladnih orga-nizacij / Legal Centre for the Protection of Human Rights and Environment among others.

Aarhus Strong Projekt

Public participation in infrastructural projects is an essential element of a modern democracy and is assured to EU citizens by the Aarhus Convention. In the digital age, but also in times of global pandemics, it is necessary to make information easily accessible digitally so that citizens can exercise their rights. The so-called EIA portals, in which information for large infrastructural projects such as motorways, power plants or factories are made availabe and the results of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) are listed, are crucial for this access to information. Ideally, citizens can comment on these projects and raise their objections at so-called public hearings.

In the second workshop, in addition to a competition for young professionals, the participation situation in Germany, Estonia and Slovenia was examined.

Germany & Austria

Even though the rights of the Aarhus Convention apply to all EU citizens, the degree of digitisation of EIA portals in the different EU Member States still varies considerably. Dr Gesa Geißler from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, examines digitisation trends for EIA portals in Germany and Austria. In her opinion, the use of social media as an information and discussion tool in infrastructure projects is desirable, but is still used too rarely. In addition, UfU has already established in past projects (Monitoring Report 2019) that the procedures are only insufficiently mapped in the EIA portals. In 2019, of approximately 1,900 new approval procedures for infrastructure projects in Germany, only 409 procedures were actually entered into the corresponding EIA portals. This corresponds to a rate of 21.5 percent.

Monitoring Report 2019 (only available in German)


A good counter-example is provided by Estonia, which is considered a pioneer in digitisation efforts. Ms. Kadi Jette Tamjärv, Environmental Consultant from Estonia and member of the Estonian Association of Environmental Impact Assessment in Estonia, presented the handling in her country. Compared to most EU Member States, the information is prepared in a much better and more accessible way. Estonia can also look back on longer and above all positive experiences with digital and hybrid discussion meetings, which also enables citizens in rural regions to exercise their right to participation without long travel times. Examples like these and others will be included in the participation guide for environmental authorities in EU Member States, which will be developed in the course of the Aarhus Strong project.


Mr. Aljoša Petek from the Legal Centre for the Protection of Human Rights and Environment reported on the status in Slovenia. Here, the implementation of the Aarhus requirements is still very slow. Although the relevant portals have been set up, documents cannot be viewed or downloaded via the portals, but must be requested from the relevant authorities.

„European Innovation Lab“ competition

In addition to the exchange of experts on the participation situation in the different Member States, the winner of the “European Innovation Lab”, a competition organised as part of the Aarhus-Strong project,was awarded. The aim of this competition was to involve young people with digital experience and different professional backgrounds in the design of participation platforms of the future and to encourage them to develop new approaches. Ms Freia Antonia Weiß took first place with her model “Discourse”. The student emphasised that EIA portals would only be accepted by the masses if there were sufficient opportunities for exchange between the participants. In most EU Member States, however, this is still a vision for the future.

Further procedure

In the next steps of the project, the situation of public participation in selected EU Member States will be examined in more detail on the basis of country reports and both “best” and “worst practices” will be identified. This will be followed by further expert exchanges and workshops , the results of which will be used to develop an innovative participation guide for environmental authorities in EU Member States.