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MEPs form united front to say “no” to environmental crimes

Today, MEPs of the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) adopted, by a large majority, a strong position on the revision of the EU Environmental Crime Directive. This position goes beyond the original proposal of the European Commission, and sends a clear message to Member States that the European Parliament is determined to give teeth to the Directive to finally tackle environmental crimes in the Union.

The position adopted by the MEPs expands the scope of the Directive to cover all forms of environmental crimes, including critical ones which were overlooked by the initial proposal, such as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and underwater noise pollution - an extended scope that WWF had long called for. In addition, environmental damage is broadened to include harms to human health, recognising that environmental crimes can affect people in multiple ways, not only through death or serious injury, but also by causing physical and physiological impairments. 

The devil often lies in the details, and where the Member States in Council introduced more flexibility and weakened important provisions of the Directive, the MEPs have actually proposed stricter and stronger measures, such as stricter fine levels to sanction legal persons, and strengthened provisions related to aggravating circumstances, prevention, specialisation of enforcement and judicial authorities, national strategies, and data collection, among many others. 

“We congratulate the rapporteur, M. Antonius Manders, and the shadow rapporteurs for their leadership and commitment to fighting environmental crimes," said Audrey Chambaudet, Policy Officer, Wildlife Trade and Wildlife Crime at the WWF European Policy Office. "With this vote, MEPs are showing that they recognise the seriousness of environmental crimes and understand that having a comprehensive Directive is critical to finally put an end to these criminal conducts”.

With the position adopted today, the JURI Committee also approved a mandate to enter negotiations with the Council directly.

“In the upcoming trilogue negotiations, we call on Member States to carefully listen to the European Parliament, which unanimously demonstrated that the EU needs to be more ambitious in its fight against environmental crimes, to ensure the adoption of a progressive law that will rise to the challenge,” concluded Audrey Chambaudet.

Environmental crimes are the third most lucrative crime category worldwide. The European Union is not immune to these crimes, and is a major hub for organised environmental crimes, such as wildlife crime or waste trafficking to name but two. Therefore, the revision of the ECD represents a unique opportunity for a strong and ambitious legal framework to prevent and penalise these crimes.
Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing (IUU) fishing is a serious global problem that contributes to overfishing, creates unfair competition, and impedes sustainable fisheries.