MEPs4Wildlife was founded seven years ago, mainly to influence the process of drafting and implementation of the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking (WTAP): what do you think are the main issues the EU should focus on now over the next few years?
MEPs for Wildlife was indeed founded in the context of the Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking, but the actions of the group go much further than wildlife trafficking. MEPs for Wildlife tries to address all aspects related to wildlife: illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade, deforestation, poor governance, corruption, etc. All have significant negative impacts on ecosystems and the loss of multiple wild species. Since they all influence each other, these themes should be seen together.
In my opinion, our main focus should be the better enforcement and implementation of the legislation. Look, in the EU and at international level, we already have several treaties, legislations, action plans and commitments. Off course, some of them urgently need an update, for example the ivory regulation, the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking and the Environmental Crime Directive, but to me the main problem is their enforcement and implementation.
The EU has the powers and ambition to take the lead in this fight and to influence the rest of the world. But words are one thing, actions are what counts, and the EU must take its responsibility. The Commission has been talking a lot about the revision of the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking and ‘that we have to tackle this and that’, but without many results. The pandemic has shown that there is absolutely no time to waste. Better enforcement can only be achieved by coordinated global efforts, international cooperation and a more holistic approach to wildlife. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a wakeup call for all of us. Human, animal and plant health are all intrinsically interconnected, and we failed to integrate the three dimensions. A truly trans-sectoral One Health approach must be our response.
The European Commission has committed to renew the WTAP that ended in 2020. Can you explain why this is still an important priority?
For the simple reason that we absolutely didn’t achieve what we need to achieve. Only look at the numbers. The EU is considered to be the third largest destination for illegal wildlife. Illegal wildlife trade is the fourth largest illegal global trade, after drugs, arms and human trafficking, generating between 8 and 20 billion euros each year. Wildlife trafficking is decimating the populations of many iconic wildlife species, but also fueling insecurity and undermining many key goals in EU foreign and development policy, such as the rule of law, good governance and peace and stability. The question is how people can be discouraged from engaging in illegal activities that are highly damaging to biodiversity and the survival of species, but which are viewed as low risk, and which generate high incomes due to the lack of severe penalties and low chances of being apprehended or prosecuted.
The European Commission adopted new ivory rules that further restrict ivory trade, though not fully banning it yet. What do you think of the new regulation and what would be the next step?
Scientists, African elephant range states, NGOs, we as European Parliament and EU citizens have been urging the European Commission for many years to close the EU domestic ivory market and implement a ban on all ivory imports and exports. The US, China, Hong Kong, the UK, New Zealand and many other of the EU’s global trading partners have closed or restricted their ivory markets. As MEPs for Wildlife, we have to make sure that the revised legislation doesn’t create any loopholes and is promptly implemented and enforced. Otherwise, this will permit intra EU ivory trade to continue unhindered and legal markets to serve as a cover for trade in illegal ivory. So, we aren’t there yet, but MEPs for Wildlife will do everything within its powers to negotiate a regulation in line with the ambitions taken in the new EU Biodiversity Strategy.
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