Wednesday

22nd Nov 2017

Brussels seeks powers to put polluters in jail

  • Brussels lists a set of offences such as unlawful treatment of waste to be considered criminal in the EU (Photo: European Commission)

The European Commission is ready to move into national governments' criminal law, proposing to harmonise what constitutes serious environmental crimes and what the minimum level of penalties should be across the EU.

The draft paper – to be introduced on Thursday (8 February) and seen by EUobserver – calls for "more dissuasive sanctions for environmentally harmful activities, which typically cause or are likely to cause substantial damage to the air, soil, water, animals or plants".

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Brussels lists nine sets of offences, such as unlawful treatment of waste or unlawful possession of protected wild plants and animals, that should be considered criminal throughout Europe, with possible punishment ranging from one to ten years' imprisonment.

The paper also states when and to what extent companies could be held liable for environmental offences, with fines between €300,000 and €1.5 million being suggested.

It is the second time in the EU's legal history that Brussels proposes that national governments will no longer have the full sovereign right to decide what constitutes a crime and what the punishment should be.

The first precedent dates back to May 2006 when common rules on counterfeiting were tabled by Brussels' executive body.

Brussels' move into criminal matters was triggered by a landmark ruling on environmental crimes by the European Court of Justice in September 2005, which gave Brussels power to introduce harmonized criminal laws across the EU.

The court stated that it is up to the Commission to decide on penal measures in order to make community legislation effective.

"The court strengthened the possibilities to enforce the law, once member states have agreed on a European policy. This is a watershed decision", commission president Jose Manuel Barroso said in reaction to the September ruling.

By contrast, many EU members vigorously oppose any intrusion into criminal law by the commission, arguing that criminal sanctions should be a national matter only.

In this week's piece of legislation, to be introduced by commissioners Franco Frattini (justice and home affairs) and Stavros Dimas (environment), the European Commission argues that environment protection should be adressed through action at EU level.

"Environmental crime usually has cross-border implications, as it often involves trans-boundary activities and often has transboundary effects such as the resulting pollution of the environment", the paper states.

No action or non-binding initiatives by Brussels "would not tackle the problem effectively because perpetrators can easily benefit from the existing differences in national legislation," according to the document.

EU ministers to tackle German data-sharing proposals

EU justice and interior ministers meeting in Brussels on Thursday are set for lengthy talks with three highly controversial issues on their agenda - the transfer of prisoners between EU states, an overhaul of data-sharing rules and environmental crimes.

Mladic found guilty for Bosnia genocide and war crimes

The former Bosnian Serb warlord was sentenced to life in prison for committing genocide and war crimes in Srebrenica and Sarajevo. Mladic is still regarded as a 'hero' among some Bosnian Serbs, in a country undergoing resurgent nationalism.

MEPs point finger at Malta

The European Parliament debated shady deals and rule of law in Malta after the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, while the Commission wanted to avoid a "political fight".

Austrian privacy case against Facebook hits legal snag

Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems may sue Facebook Ireland in an Austrian court but won't be able to pursue a class action suit in Austria, according to a non-binding opinion by a top EU court advisor.

EU Parliament 'cookie' restrictions worry online media

The European Parliament and groups representing newspapers and magazines are at odds over how new privacy rules will affect the media, especially restrictions on website cookies - but one MEP thinks it could spark new business models.

EU Commission to target fake news

Mariya Gabriel, the EU digital economy commissioner, announces expert panel and says fake news can be tackled if people are given credible and diverse information.

MEP switches vote on 'private expenses' transparency

A small group of MEPs are looking into how members of the European Parliament spend the monthly €4,300 'private expenses' funded by taxpayer money. Last month, MEPs voted on transparency amendments on the funds.

News in Brief

  1. December euro summit still on, Tusk confirms
  2. EU calls for end to Kenya election crisis
  3. Report: Israeli PM invited to meet EU ministers
  4. French banks close Le Pen accounts
  5. Commission relaxes rules on labelling free range eggs
  6. Commission issues €34m fine over car equipment cartel
  7. Estonian presidency 'delighted' with emissions trading vote
  8. Mladic found guilty of genocide and war crimes

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Idealist Quarterly"Dear Politics, Time to Meet Creativity!" Afterwork Discussion & Networking
  2. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  3. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  4. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  6. EPSUWith EU Pillar of Social Rights in Place, Time Is Ticking for Commission to Deliver
  7. ILGA EuropeBan on LGBTI Events in Ankara Must Be Overturned
  8. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!
  9. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  10. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  11. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  12. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure

Latest News

  1. Mali blames West for chaos in Libya
  2. Orban stokes up his voters with anti-Soros 'consultation'
  3. Commission warns Italy over high debt level
  4. Mladic found guilty for Bosnia genocide and war crimes
  5. Uber may face fines in EU for keeping data breach secret
  6. EU counter-propaganda 'harms' relations, Russia says
  7. The EU's half-hearted Ostpolitik
  8. Glyphosate: 1.3 million EU citizens call for ban