18. March 2022

In its discussion paper, UfU makes suggestions on how digital public participation can be improved at the EU level, for example via the European Commission’s “Have-your-say Portal”.


Europe’s citizens care about environmental protection and there is a strong desire for change towards more climate protection and sustainability. This is shown, for example, by the results of the Special Eurobarometer survey (2019) commissioned by the European Commission: over 90% of those interviewed across Europe believed that climate change is a serious problem and 94% said that environmental protection is important to them personally. Many people also want to get involved in shaping the necessary transformation – and they have a right to do so, both in their country and at the European level. In accordance with the Aarhus Convention, the rights of European citizens and environmental associations to information, participation and access to justice must be implemented not only within the EU member states, but also for European procedures. This means, for example, that when EU regulations on air quality are revised or the 2030 climate target plan is drafted as part of the European Green Deal, the public must be involved and consulted.

Not only as a result of the Corona pandemic, participation processes have been increasingly shifted to the digital space in the last years. On the one hand, digitalisation bears great potential for the participation of different social groups and organisations. On the other hand, however, it also brings with it various challenges. In practice, European institutions are still struggling to respond appropriately to the new, digital participation needs and to design modern, effective participation tools and formats.


In that context and building on a series of “Aarhus Workshop” held by UfU, this discussion paper on digital participation (e-participation) has been written. In the paper, UfU, together with Prof. Dr. Alexandra Aragão from the University of Coimbra, Portugal, discusses how the European Union can improve the digital participation of citizens and organisations in environmental matters. The paper focuses on online consultations of the public, initiated by the European Commission via the Have-your-say-Portal. This web-based portal offers citizens, stakeholders and academics, among others, the opportunity to comment on new EU policies and existing legislation. The discussion paper first describes how the public can participate via the online portal. It then systematically outlays the challenges and shortcomings of e-participation in European environmental decision-making. Based on this, concrete solutions for improving e-participation are proposed.

Discussion Paper: Strengthened e-participation in European environmental decision-making


The discussion paper was written as part of the project “European Implementation of the Aarhus Convention in the Digital Age (EU-AarKo)”, which was funded by the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA) and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection.

The aim of the project was, on the one hand, to organise dialog and positioning processes regarding the implementation of the Aarhus Convention at the European level and, on the other hand, to develop information and educational materials around the topics of environmental information access, participation and legal protection in environmental matters.

In 2020 and 2021, a total of five digital Aarhus workshop meetings were organised by UfU. As a result, among others, the joint position paper “German-Portuguese-Slovenian Civil Society Declaration on Legal Access for Citizens* and NGOs at EU Level” and the discussion paper “Strengthened e-participation in European environmental decision-making” were published.

In addition, four short explanatory films were produced as well as three brochures on the Aarhus Convention and the existing opportunities to get involved in environmental policy making at the European level.


Further information and all publications can be found here: https://www.ufu.de/en/projekt/eu-aarko/

Further information on the Aarhus Convention and its implementation at European level can be found here (German): www.aarhus-konvention.de