Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2002-09-04-Speech-3-282"

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"Mr President, I was listening to the debate here just now on European Union citizenship, and at least the latter part of the discussion, which I had the opportunity to follow, showed that we often understand the concept of citizenship as something rather abstract in this way, something handed down from on high, perhaps, which we must do no more than inform the people of. At least I was not aware of anyone mentioning the fact that the right to participate in decision-making is an absolutely essential aspect of citizenship. In this respect the report under discussion, which Eija-Riitta Korhola has skilfully taken through from the Committee stage to plenary session, is absolutely indispensable, as the fact that the European Union has begun to implement the Aarhus Convention shows that it is understood in the Union that, at least in environmental matters, we can make a start and give our citizens the right to participate. Mrs González Álvarez also raised a very important matter. She said that the public would have far fewer complaints about non-compliance with Community legislation if they had the right to participate in decision-making relating to it right from the early stages, and this is precisely what this report is about. It is absolutely essential that this right to participate should be applied widely to the parties concerned. In this regard it is important that Amendment No 10 actually goes through. I have no doubt that it will, but it does state that non-governmental organisations shall also be deemed to meet the definition of what constitutes a party concerned. I took note of the fact that, unfortunately, the final document produced by the United States of America and the group of developing countries at the Johannesburg summit on sustainable development that has just ended made no mention of Principle 10 of the Rio Conference, which specifically concerns the right of the public to participate in decision-making on the environment. It is even more important that the European Union should swiftly bring the Aarhus Convention into force. Now we will discuss the second part of the Convention which deals with the right to participate in decision-making. The rapporteur said that the right to participation can be abused. Unfortunately, however, much too much is made of this subject of abuse. In fact when the public actually start to exercise the rights they have, those who could not care less about their opinions all too readily claim those rights are being abused. I believe that when people are granted the right to participate they will also exercise that right responsibly and will eventually enjoy even fuller rights as citizens and that it will not occur to them to upset or terrorise the decision-making process. That is perhaps more an unfounded concern on the part of the decision-maker."@en1

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