Together with partners from Estonia, Hungary, Slovenia and Spain, we analysed the state of digital public participation in environmental issues in five EU Member States and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Digital public participation in environmental issues is an essential element of modern democracy, as effective public involvement leads to more informed decisions that strengthen environmental protection. At present, however, the opportunities for digital participation are only utilised in a rudimentary and fragmented way. Strengthening digital participation procedures by public authorities in EU Member States can therefore lead to more robust and comprehensive public participation in general. The aim of this study is to assess the current state of digital public participation in five EU Member States in order to create an initial knowledge base. In the future, the information gained can be used to improve the digital capabilities and capacities within authorisation authorities.

The study analyses the different uses of digital public participation procedures in the EU in relation to environmental impact assessment (EIA). It becomes clear that there is no common understanding of how to regulate and use digital tools to promote and facilitate public participation. However, this comparative approach can encourage Member State authorities to adopt best practices from the countries presented and learn from existing shortcomings.

Suggestions for improvement

After assessing the situation in the five countries analysed, the following suggestions for improvement for effective digital public participation emerged.

EIA portals

  • Establishment of a standardised national EIA portal.
  • All projects and their relevant documents are published on the EIA portal.
  • Non-technical summary of the project and the environmental impact study are available
  • The documents are downloadable in a user-friendly format.
  • The documents are complete and organised in a predefined filing system with easily identifiable file names.
  • Search function to find cases, documents and text within documents.
  • Searchable archive function to find information on completed projects.
  • Automatic notifications about projects in a specific area or field of interest (e.g. via email or app).
  • The EIA portal allows direct comments on projects without a lengthy registration process.
  • Responses to participants’ comments are public and easily accessible online.

Public hearings

  • Accessible online and offline (hybrid).
  • Online hearings can be set up without the prior consent of all participants.
  • The public concerned can participate in the hearing at any time.


  • Specific separate legislation on electronic public participation.
  • The standards for electronic public participation must be as high as those for face-to-face participation.
  • Funding of pilot projects.
  • Dissemination of information via social media.