EU gets tough on environment crimes

Published: Thursday 15 March 2007

the European Commission recently presented a proposal to turn environmental offences over to criminal courts across the European Union (eu).

The proposal states that activities like unlawful dumping and storage of toxic materials, trade in endangered species and use of ozone-depleting substances, which were earlier penalised by imposing administrative sanctions might now be treated as criminal offences. Also, those committing serious 'green crimes' that injured or killed might now be sentenced to jail and fined up to us $2 million.

Studies on organised environmental crime show that nearly three-quarters of the cases have cross-border implications, said Franco Frattini, the eu commissioner for justice, freedom and security.With large differences in laws of the member states, it was impossible to prevent or punish green crimes at the national level, Frattini said. Discrepancies were inevitable with countries like Germany, Finland and the Czech Republic being strict in enforcing environmental laws in the country, unlike Italy, Malta and Cyprus. Keeping this in mind, the commission said there would be a high degree of flexibility in the proposal's implementation so that there is space for higher penalties to be imposed by member states.

However, the proposal will become law only after it receives approval from the member states and the European parliament. So far, responses that are in, differ in their opinion. International environment ngo Greenpeace has welcomed the proposal.

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