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Brussels has ambitious plans for cracking down on environmental crime. But its success will depend upon the willingness of EU countries and their cooperation.
This could prove to be a major problem. There are many countries that differ on what constitutes environmental crimes.
Different rules regarding what is considered “waste” can lead to countries having different definitions of the waste trafficking that generates it. Between 4 billion and 5 billionEach year as a crime.
Traffickers are aware of these differences and will label plastic imports as “raw or recycled material” when it is actually waste that has not been treated, stated ric Figliolia from France, France’s deputy representative at Eurojust (the EU agency that facilitates judiciary cooperation between countries).
Other lucrative types of organized crime against the environment in the EU include wildlife trafficking, which is worth between 7 and 9 Billion and illegal timber trading, which is worth 6 Billion. Similar roadblocks exist when trying to crack down on similar efforts.
Jan op gen Oorth spoke for Europol, the EU law enforcement agency. He said that safe havens are created when certain crimes are less severely punished in one country or another.
It is not uncommon for environmental crime to be committed in countries like Italy and Central Europe. Op gen Oorth explained that the Benelux region Belgium/The Netherlands and Luxembourg are “very attractive for criminals” because it has many airports, large ports, and good infrastructure. It also has good connections to the English, French, and German markets.
Organized environmental crime often takes place across borders. EU agencies like Europol and Eurojust play an important role in this. However, they are only able to help if a country reports a crime or requests assistance.
It means that countries must make cracking down against these criminal networks a priority.
He said that every crime area is always competing against others when it comes down to allocating budget and prioritizing law enforcement. He also stated that illegal migration, terrorism, and international drug trafficking are the most prominent.
“We are also a bit in Europe the victims our high standards,” said op gen Oorth. “From the moment that we decide to live in a clean society, that’s not polluted and maintained it, that means that waste must be removed in a certain manner, creating an opportunity to criminals.”
Figliolia stated that “there is a growing awareness among European judicial and police authorities” about the necessity to cooperate in combating environmental crimes.
Figliolia stated that tracking organized environmental crime is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. “It involves different administrative and judicial services. All this must be coordinated at national level before it can all be coordinated at international level.”
Many criminals operate in a gray area. “With waste traficking and environmental crime you see that they often have an unusual setup: They have a legal business that does legal work but on the side they do some illicit work,” said op gen Oorth. It’s very difficult to detect.
Romania, for instance, has been trying hard to crackdown on illegal logging following an infringement procedure by the European Commission. However, progress has been slow. According to Laura Bouriaud, a professor at the Stefan cel Mare University in Suceava, Romanian illegal logging has been slow because of a lack of technical assistance and expertise. studiesIllegal logging in Central and Eastern Europe
She said that there is a demand for more specialized units of police, environmental guards, and more modern methods of enforcement.
Already, such units are specialized ExistenceFrance, Sweden Spain, Italy, Germany
But more resources don’t always guarantee smooth cooperation. Frdric Bab, a French magistrate who worked with Eurojust to coordinate the work of countries to investigate the case and prosecute those involved in it, stated that German authorities were “reticent” to cooperate in the Dieselgate scandal of 2015. He said that when this happens, “everything becomes stalled.” told Le Monde.
Fix by the Commission
Brussels wants to remove those roadblocks, and motivate countries to act.
It is part of its RevisionThe 2008 Environmental Crime Directive will be used by the Commission to ask countries to report on how they have prosecuted environmental crimes in a new database. This will give the Commission a better understanding of the problem’s scale.
It plans to harmonize environmental crimes definitions and impose harsher sanctions.
The Commission stated that “Sanction levels vary greatly between Member States and their application is not dissuasive.” Noted“There hasn’t been any improvement in crossborder cooperation since Directive came into effect.”
Figliolia stressed that harmonizing Sanctions is crucial because otherwise offenders will forum shop and set-up part of their businesses in countries where they are not allowed to. [these crimes]They are the least prosecuted.
Too often, in Europe, there is no real punishment for environmental crimes, lawbreakers can go unpunished, as well as too few incentives to follow the law, said Virginijus Sinkeviius, Environment Commissioner. We want to change that.
He stated that the Commission will provide specialized training for judges, prosecutors, police officers, and ensurers.[e]They have the resources and tools they need. He said, however, that no additional funds will ever be allocated to these efforts.
However The European ParliamentSinkeviius wants to include environmental criminality in the mandate for the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. This would help countries with less expertise. It could be discussed next.
Frederik Harbour, European Environmental Bureau’s policy officer for environmental democracy, said that the Commission’s proposal was welcomed by him because it provides more legal certainty and covers more crimes. He argued that the minimum penalties of at least 5 percent of a company’s global turnover were too low.
If environmental crimes are allowed to continue to be covered by low sanctions, governments run the risk of spending more public resources on their detection and prosecution than they will recover in fines.
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