News item 8, Breaking news 15 December 2021

European Green Deal: Commission proposes to strengthen the protection of the environment through criminal law

Press release by the European Commission 15 December 2021.

Today 15 December 2021, the Commission has adopted a proposal for a new EU Directive to crack down on environmental crime, fulfilling a key commitment of the European Green Deal. The proposal intends to make protection of the environment more effective by obliging Member States to take criminal law measures. It defines new environmental crimes, sets a minimum level for sanctions and strengthens the effectiveness of law enforcement cooperation. It also obliges the Member States to support and assist people who report environmental offences and cooperate with the enforcement. This proposal will help to protect nature and natural resources, as well as public health and well-being.

Main objectives of the proposal
The proposal sets new EU environmental criminal offences, including illegal timber trade, illegal ship recycling or illegal abstraction of water. In addition, the proposal clarifies existing definitions of environmental criminal offences, providing for an increased legal certainty.

The Commission proposes to set a common minimum denominator for sanctions for environmental crimes. Where offence cause or are likely to cause death or serious injury to any person, Member States have to provide at least for imprisonment of up to ten years. The draft directive also proposes additional sanctions, including the restoration of nature, exclusion from access to public funding and procurement procedures or the withdrawal of administrative permits.

The proposal also aims at making  relevant investigations and criminal proceedings more effective. It provides for support of inspectors, police, prosecutors and judges through training, investigative tools, coordination and cooperation, as well as better data collection and statistics. The Commission proposes that each Member State develops national strategies that ensure a coherent approach at all levels of enforcement and the availability of the necessary resources.

The proposal will help cross-border investigation and prosecution. Environmental crimes often impact several countries (for example the illicit trafficking of wildlife) or have cross-border effects (for example in the case of cross-border pollution of air, water and soil). Law enforcement and judicial authorities can only tackle these crimes when they work together across borders.

The Commission will continue to support Member States by offering law enforcement practitioners and their professional networks a platform for strategic discussions and providing them with financial assistance. Finally, as environmental crime is a global phenomenon, the Commission will continue to promote international cooperation in this area.

Relevant articles for ship recycling/exports of waste.

Proposal for a DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on the protection of the environment through criminal law and replacing Directive 2008/99/EC.

Article 3
1. Member States shall ensure that the following conduct constitutes a criminal offence when it is unlawful and committed intentionally (….):

(f) the shipment of waste, within the meaning of Article 2(35) of Regulation (EC) No 1013/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council 40 when such shipment is undertaken in a non-negligible quantity, whether executed in a single shipment or in several shipments which appear to be linked;

(g) the recycling of ships falling within the scope of Regulation (EU) No 1257/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council 41, without complying with the requirements of Article 6(2), point (a) of that Regulation.


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