EU justice council accepts environmental crime conclusions

Last week ministers of the 28 EU countries meeting at the Justice and Home Affairs Council adopted the conclusions on countering environmental crime.Environmental crime causes significant harm or risk to the environment and human health; the most known areas of environmental crime are the illegal trade in wildlife, the illegal emission or discharge of substances into air, water or soil, and the illegal shipment or dumping of waste. Currently the most important EU instrument in relation to environmental crime is the Environmental Crime Directive which requires Member States to criminalise certain conducts when committed unlawfully and intentionally or with at least serious negligence.

Last week ministers of the 28 EU countries meeting at the Justice and Home Affairs Council adopted the conclusions on countering environmental crime  as have been drafted under the Slovak Presidency.

These conclusions are extremely significant as they acknowledge that environmental crime has become one of the world’s most profitable organized criminal activities which have a substantial impact on the environment, society and worldwide economies. The adopted text points out that the increasing trend has also been identified in the Serious and Organized Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA, 2014-2017), and mentions also the Council conclusions on Wildlife Trafficking adopted in June 2016.

To counter environmental crime the Union needs coordination, joint efforts and multidisciplinary approach; the various international, European and regional networks- such as European network for the implementation and enforcement of environmental law (IMPEL), the informal European network of prosecutors for the environment (ENPE) and the European Union forum of judges for the Environment (EUFJE). These are only few of the networks created to combat environmental crime in the past years that could provide concrete support to this fight.

The Council highlights also the need to enhance dialogue and cooperation with international organizations including non-governmental organizations which can provide knowledge and useful experience to fight environmental crime.

With today’s endorsement, Member States are called among other things to provide sufficient law enforcement capacity and other relevant authorities to detect and investigate offences against the environment promptly and also to create special police units, as few Member States can currently count on these particular units.

It is extremely important to see that Member States are invited to involve their cybercrime units in countering illegal activities in the field of environmental crime (IFAW identified the extremely relevant scale of this issue in its Wanted: Dead or Alive report in 2014). Also, where appropriate, Member States must enable the involvement of financial investigators in environmental crime cases, and support the use of forensic techniques. We urge now to see concrete actions and initiative coming from the Member States also in the field of sanctions for this type of offences.

IFAW compliments the Slovak Presidency for this initiative. In the next few months, IFAW will be actively engaging with the European Commission, the Member States and with the upcoming Maltese Presidency to ensure these conclusions are seriously taken as a first step to further strengthen the fight against environmental crime and to achieve some concrete results with the different parties involved.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Jimmiel Mandima at IFAW
Deputy Vice President of Conservation
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime