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Lorenzo Squintani and Hendrik Schoukens

Chapter 3 addresses the emerging problem that large groups of our society, usually the weaker ones such as the less well educated, are de facto marginalized during public participation procedures. For example, studies show that less well educated and financially insecure people cannot effectively take part in environmental public participation procedures. From a legal perspective, public participation procedures tend to focus on procedural equality, ie on ensuring that each member of the public has the same right to participate as any other member does. This chapter focuses on how law in the EU can be used to anchor public participation procedures to material equality, ie equity. Hence, they focus, first, on the role that positive action plays in EU law in general. Both the general principle of equal treatment and the role played by positive action in specific areas of EU law are discussed in this regard. Second, they focus on public participation in environmental matters, in particular focusing on the room for positive action under the Aarhus Convention, and the EU law implementing it. On the whole, this chapter develops a framework for further research on how to reach equal opportunities in public participation procedures concerning environmental matters.