The participatory practices required as part of the established systems of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) practiced in the United States, Canada, Western Europe as well as several international agencies are more recent to the countries of Eastern Europe. The most common official forum for citizen participation in EIAs is the public hearing, which can provide important benefits. However, public hearings have been criticized as exhibiting several problems that preclude meaningful citizen input. This research explores three cases of public hearings held for EIA projects in Bulgaria. It argues that the public participation process and the public hearing in particular share the same problems that have been observed in other countries (including the United States and Canada). At the same time, however, Bulgarian public hearings do provide important indirect benefits that can contribute to the capacity for democratic governance and an active civil society. In the face of substantial economic obstacles and dramatic governmental reforms the country has endured since the end of communism, forums such as the public hearing are important means to foster institutional restructuring of a newly democratized country.
Environmental Impact Assessment Review – Elsevier
Published: Jul 1, 2004
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