This is the insidious way that power slips away to Brussels without any of our lazy media here noticing or reporting it
EUROPEAN VOICE [Economist Group]
Major environmental damage set to become crime
By Zoë Casey
Legislation to criminalise serious environmental breaches passes through European Parliament and is set to win the backing of member states.
Activities that seriously breach EU environment laws are to become a criminal offence across the EU, under new legislation approved by the European Parliament on 21 May.
The legislation now requires the approval of EU justice ministers, but the new rules’ passage through the Parliament at their first reading was preceded by an agreement between all three EU institutions: the Parliament, European Commission and Council of Ministers. Justice ministers to give the legislation their blessing when they meet on 5-6 June at the Justice and Home Affairs Council.
Under existing rules, environment crimes are punishable under the civil law, through – for example – fines, but the new legislation would oblige national governments to apply “effective, proportionate and dissuasive” criminal penalties, including imprisonment, in some instances.
The list of punishable offences includes the illegal shipment of waste, trade in endangered species or ozone-depleting substances, and any significant deterioration of wildlife habitats within the EU’s Natura 2000 network of protected sites. Penalties will also apply to people guilty of serious negligence, or of inciting, aiding and abetting someone to commit an offence.
Jacques Barrot, the commissioner for justice, freedom and security, said the deal marked a “significant contribution [to] strengthening the protection of Europe’s environment”.
Member states would be left free to determine the exact penalties they wished to apply. In the Commission’s original proposals, the legislation would have harmonised lengths of prison sentence and size of fines across the EU, but this proved impossible after the European Court of Justice, the EU’s highest court, made it clear in October 2007 that the Commission did not have the competence necessary to do so. [But they will, oh yes, they will -cs]
Monica Frassoni, the lead MEP for the Parliament’s Greens / EFA group on the dossier, has expressed her regret at these limitations, while noting that “thanks to this directive, member states will no longer be able to systematically waive penalties for environmental crimes. This is definitely an important achievement.”