Activities seriously damaging environment will soon become
a crime across the 27-nation EU, as the bloc's main institutions
have agreed on a piece of law harmonising what constitutes
a severe environmental offence and obliging national governments
to apply criminal penalties to punish them.
Members of the European Parliament have given their blessing
to a report by German conservative Hartmut Nassauer, which
calls for 'effective, proportionate and dissuasive'
criminal sanctions for number of crimes.
The list includes crimes related to -
- the emission of radiation into the air, soil or water;
- the disposal of waste;
- the production, storage and transport of nuclear materials;
- the possession or killing of protected fauna and flora
- the deterioration of a habitat within a protected site
- the manufacture and distribution of ozone-depleting substances.
All three EU bodies - the parliament, the European commission
and the council, representing member states - have thrown
their weight behind the draft law during the so-called first
reading - the early stages of legislative process. "With this
compromise, everybody knows which environmental offences can
lead to criminal law consequences" - Mr Nassauer said.
Commission vice-president Jacques Barrot, in charge of the
justice dossier, also praised the deal, underlining that the
new EU legislation will "significantly contribute to more
effective protection of environment".
Currently, not all EU countries apply criminal sanctions
and polluters are able to benefit from differences in national
Brussels' move into the area was triggered by a landmark
ruling on environmental crimes by the European Court of Justice
(ECJ) in September 2005 - something that gave the commission
the power to introduce penal measures in order to make community
However, a later ECJ verdict in October 2007, stated that
the commission did not have a say in the most controversial
area - the type and level of criminal sanctions. Member states
will retain the power to determine what sanctions to apply.