Information on the environment is information of an exceptional public interest and is directly related to the protection of human health, to sustainable development, and to the quality of life of future generations. The preservation of nature and of the human environment, among other things, represent the highest values of the Constitutional Order of the Republic of Croatia as set out in Article 3 and are the basis for the interpretation of the Constitution, therefore access to information on the environment directly affects the right of public participation in decision-making on environmental issues, which is a significant tool for allowing citizens to legitimately be active participants in policy-making and environmental-related decisions.
The Environmental Protection Act obliges public authorities to provide access to environmental information which they have in their possession or monitor in accordance with the said Law and the Act on the Right of Access to Information. The right to access to environmental information pertains to any information in a written, visual, auditory, electronic or other accessible form, which is adopted pursuant to the Law of the Exhaustively Listed Environmental Issues (Article 155). Any natural and legal person has the right to seek environmental information from public authorities. Public authorities are also obliged to regularly (proactively) publish environmental information through the available electronic databases or other appropriate means of information, especially texts pertaining to international treaties and agreements, regulations, strategies, plans, programs and other documents relating to environmental protection, as well as reports on the implementation of international agreements and regulations and on the state of the environment (Article 156).
In appeal procedures, the Information Commissioner protects the right to access to environmental information (Article 156, paragraph 6). The provisions of the Right to Access to Information Act (Article 5, paragraph 1) apply to all questions on access to information in procedures under the Environmental Protection Act that are not regulated by the Act and its implementing regulations.
The Environmental Protection Act also regulates the public and the interested public’s right to participate in deciding on certain actions and activities related to environmental issues, and it especially emphasizes bodies’ obligation to timely and effectively inform the public of the right to participate in the said decision-making procedures in an appropriate manner.
When the Environmental Protection Act and its implementing regulations do not specify special procedures for access to environmental information, users of the right of access to information may, apart from an appeal, use other means to protect their right of access to information, such as petitions addressed to the Information Commissioner.