In many CEE countries, a "right to a healthy environment" or "favorable environment" - separate from the basic rights - was also already granted in the early 1990s by the constitutions. This is the case in eight countries: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Macedonia, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Though this is not a "basic right" but a "social right" which cannot be enforced directly, it has been successfully used in the constitutional court in several countries to challenge the constitutionality of some activities or laws concerning environmental issues. For example, in Hungary, there have been cases in which environmental NGOs turned to the constitutional court and the court ruled that the environmental and health-based rights found in the Hungarian Constitution require the state to guarantee a high level of environment protection for citizens. One such case was the Law on the Privatization of Forests (1995), which the court declared unconstitutional. In Slovenia, the constitutional court decided in 1996 to give legal standing to citizens on the basis of their constitutional right to a healthy environment. (See the Slovenian report).
The new developments in the region between 1995 and 1998 include the recognition of "the rights of all persons to a healthy environment" by the Environmental Protection Act adopted in Romania at the end of 1995 (Article 5, December 1995) and the adoption of a new constitution in Poland in October, 1997. Unlike the old one, the new Polish Constitution does not grant a general citizen's right to a healthy environment. Instead, the document makes a direct reference to the concept of sustainable development as one of the fundamental constitutional principles.
The trend of including a reference in the constitution to a "right to a healthy environment" or "favorable environment" as an underlying basic social right is in line with the general obligations contained in the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decisionmaking and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, which is to be adopted in June 1998. The convention links the rights of access to information, public participation in decisionmaking, and access to justice with the right to live in a healthy environment. In its "Objective," the Convention states, "In order to contribute to the protection of the right of every person of present and future generations to live in an environment adequate to his or her health and well-being, each Party shall guarantee the rights of access to information, access to public participation in decisionmaking, and access to justice in environmental matters in accordance with the provisions of this Convention." In light of this general obligation suggested by the Convention, the CEE countries that already have such a constitutional right can easily implement this provision of the Convention. In Hungary, where experts drafting the text of the new draft constitution suggested omitting environmental rights, such initiatives will probably have to be carefully considered. The major argument against such a right was that rights other than the basic rights should be laid out by specific laws and regulations rather than by the constitution itself. However, the drafting of the new Hungarian Constitution is still not finished; the document will probably be adopted by a new Parliament after the May 1998 elections.